If you've just finished 7th grade, it's time to be thinking about high school!

In addition to a summer reading list for 8th grade, you've got another hefty tome to read over the summer: the 2016 high school directory. At 650 pages, this year's directory, is bigger than ever. It's also online.

Take the time to look through the opening pages which detail the timeline, different admissions methods, types of high schools and factors to consider as you select a high school. If you want more explanation, and an opportunity to ask questions from the folks who make the rules, the Department of Education is offering high school admissions workshops in every borough beginning next week. Enrollment officials will provide an introduction to the high school admissions process including the different the types of programs offered, and give tips on how to fill out your application.

Insideschools will be at some workshops too, to meet parents and tell you about our mobile high school search.

The first DOE session is Tuesday, July 14 at Prospect Heights High School in Brooklyn; on Wednesday, July 16, there will be workshops at the Queens College Kupferberg Center for the Arts (65-30 Kissena Blvd.) and at Staten Island Tech High School. On Thursday, July 16, there are sessions in the Bronx at Lehman High School and two in Manhattan: one on the Upper West Side at Martin Luther King, Jr. High School, for families whose last names start with letter A-N; and downtown at Murry Bergtraum, for families whose last names start with letters O-Z. All sessions run from 6:30–8 pm.

High school directories will be given out at the workshops. Warning: They are heavy. For those who keep track of changes from year to year, there are some cool new features.

Kids interested in applying to arts programs now may prepare the same audition, or portfolio for a select group of schools that accept a "common audition components". Good news: You don't have to prepare something different for every school you apply to! Bad news: Not all arts schools are participating—not Frank Sinatra, in Queens, or Talent Unlimited or PPAS in Manhattan, for example. A dozen schools are participating including Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, the only specialized arts high school. See the list on page 15 of the directory.

Another welcome addition: you can better see your odds of acceptance to a school. The directory shows the number of applicants per available seat, based on the total number of applicants who ranked the school somewhere on their application. For example, tiny Bedford Academy, a screened school in Brooklyn got 56 applicants per seat, as compared to nearby, struggling Boys and Girls High School which got only one applicant per seat for its computer program.

Each school page shows you the graduation rate; you can also now see how many students feel safe at the school and are happy with its programs and activities. You can use the directory in conjunction with Insideschools  profile pages, and check out our InsideStats section for more school details. 

Specialized high school workshop & summer sign-up

Workshops about the city's nine specialized high schools, which admit students based on an exam or audition, will be held the following week in Manhattan and Queens. On Tuesday, July 21, there will be two Manhattan sessions, one uptown at MLK campus (for families whose last names begin with A-N) and the other downtown at Murry Bergtraum (last names beginning with O-Z). On Thursday, July 23, the workshop will be at the Queens College Kupferberg Center for the Arts.

Specialized high school handbooks, including a sample test are available online (PDF) and at the information sessions. Most students do some prep work or take a course before sitting for the two-and-a-half hour test, which will be given on Oct. 24-25, 2015 to 8th-graders.

Incoming 9th- and 10th-graders who moved to New York City after last fall's specialized high school exam may sign up for the Aug. 25 SHSAT exam, and the Aug. 27 audition for LaGuardia High School. Registration begins on July 15 and ends on Aug. 18 at Family Welcome Centers.  See more information here.

Wondering where and how to begin your high school search? Look at our high school search for mobile devices on your phone. Online, check out our "how to apply to high school" video series.