Applying to high school in New York City is a confusing process and there is a lot of misinformation out there. In a wide-ranging discussion last year at the New School, our panel of experts took a look at some of the most common myths—and busted them. We decided to rerun them for this year's 8th-graders facing down the Dec. 1 high school application deadline.
MYTH: The specialized high schools are the best and only ones worth applying to.
There are dozens of other city high schools that are academically challenging and prepare kids for top colleges.
MYTH: There are only five good schools in the city.
Good high schools are not like unicorns; there are many good schools that are under-the-hype-radar. (Insideschools pointed out one example: Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics.)
MYTH: It doesn't matter where I go to school as long as I'm a good kid who works hard.
School graduation rates do matter. Attending a school with a 90 percent graduation rate versus a 55 percent rate means that you are more likely to gain access to better options for the future. That said, the valedictorian at the worst school would have great college options. Use your judgment when picking a school—make sure it offers the best choices and opportunities for you.
MYTH: I can tell what courses the school offers by its name—like "medical science."
Themes can be really cool, but there are schools with a themed name that have nothing to do with what goes on once you are in the building. Do research beyond the name of school; try to get as much detail as possible, and this will help you make the right choice.
MYTH: Charter schools are better (or worse) than ordinary public schools.
Some charter schools are great. Some are terrible. Just like the public schools.
MYTH: I must rank a popular school "No. 1" on my application, or I won't be considered.
The schools don't know how you rank them. It is very important that you put your true first choice as your first choice on your application, as long as you meet the eligibility requirements. Don't try to game the system.
MYTH: If I apply to only a few schools it increases my chances of getting into my top choice.
The number of schools you apply for does not affect your chances of getting into your top choice.
MYTH: I must fill out all 12 slots on the application.
If you are smart, you will use all spaces on your application because that will maximize the potential for you to get into a school you are happy to attend. That said, do not put a school on your list that you would not be happy attending.
MYTH: If I have a 90+ average, I'm safe applying only to a few top schools.
Ninth-grader Martha Sanchez says she always had a 95-97 percent average so she thought she would not have a problem getting into any schools, but found that she needed to show interest at the interview process and know about the school in order to be a desirable applicant. Another thing to look at is admissions rates: How many seats are there? How many students are applying? That tells you a lot about how selective the schools are.
MYTH: If I don't get one of my top choices, I'm out of luck. Appeals never work.
The appeals process works best for students with genuine hardship. Appealing won't get you a seat in an extremely competitive school that rejected you in the first place. But if you are matched to a school that is truly inappropriate, go ahead and appeal. Some 40-45 percent of appeals are granted each year.
Want to see more? Watch our video here.