High school admissions season doesn't kick off until September, but if you’re a current 7th-grader, you should start exploring your options this spring to avoid a last-minute scramble.

The big benefit of starting your search early is that you have the time to cast a wide net. There are over 400 high schools in New York City—many with multiple programs you can apply to—so you can’t possibly consider all of them. Some may be too far from home or have a theme that doesn’t interest you. Yet don’t worry if your list is long now. There will be time for you to whittle it down to no more than 12 by the application deadline, which is typically in early December.

Where to start

Read our high school guides:

Then, explore your options

Use our High School Guided Search to compile a list of schools you may want to apply to in the fall. All you have to do is answer a few questions and you get a robust list of schools for which you’re eligible to apply. You’ll also be able to narrow your search by interest and types of schools (don’t forget to read our Your Options guide) and sort results by distance from home, applicants per seat and college readiness rate, which tells you how well the school prepares students for college.

Create a free account so you can save your search results and make a list of your favorite schools that you can refer back to often and share with others. And make sure to read the school’s profiles, which includes our expert reviews, photos and useful data.

Specialized High Schools

There are nine specialized high schools, which are highly competitive programs that thousands of students apply to each year. You may apply to the specialized high schools in addition to the 12 schools that you list on the main application.

Eight of the specialized high schools admit students based on an exam called the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT), which students typically take in late October of 8th grade. It’s important that you study for it, and it helps to start in 7th grade. Learn more and find free and low cost ways to prepare in our SHSAT guide.

The ninth specialized high school is Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, which admits students based on an audition and review of academic records. Like the SHSAT, you’ll need to prepare for the audition.

Stay tuned for changes

The High School Directory for students applying to attend 9th grade in September 2021 is not available yet, but we already know that with the coronavirus disrupting school this spring, there will be some changes to admissions requirements for the upcoming round of high school admissions in the fall.

Screened high schools, meaning those that accept students based on factors such as 7th grade academic record, an interview or a review of a sampling of student work, sometimes referred to as a “portfolio,” will not consider students’ 7th grade attendance record, Spring 2020 final grades, or ELA and math test scores, as this year’s state exams were cancelled. The DOE has yet to announce what criteria screened schools will be able to consider for the coming admissions cycle.

Got questions? Ask them in the COMMENTS and we’ll be sure to answer them.

(updated, May 20, 2020)