With high school admissions season nearing the halfway mark, now’s a great time for 8th and 9th grade families to take stock of what still needs to get done. Hopefully by now you have gotten organized and signed up for school tours and open houses. Make sure to get to the borough high school fairs this Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 17 and 18th from 11 am to 3 pm. It's a great opportunity to ask questions, meet with staff from schools you haven't already seen and to find out about any upcoming school tours that may not be posted on school websites.  Keep an open mind as you decide which schools to list on the application.

Here are some tips to help you stay on track for the Dec. 1 application deadline.

Check your application form : High school applications were distributed to 8th-graders last week. Each student gets a personalized application listing key information such as 7th grade state ELA and math test scores, final grades in core subjects and their zoned school, if they have one. Read  the application carefully and tell your guidance counselor if any information is incorrect.

Specialized high schools : Thursday, Oct. 15 is the deadline for students to register with their middle school guidance counselor to take the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) or audition for LaGuardia High School. Admissions tickets will be distributed on Oct. 21. You need a ticket to take the exam or audition.

Most 8th graders take the SHSAT on Oct. 24 or 25. That's less than two weeks away, so start thinking about your top choices among the specialized high schools. On exam day, students will list the specialized high schools they’re applying to. It’s very straightforward and there are no odds to play: you should list the schools in the order of your preference. If you make the score cut-off for your first choice, you're in. If you miss the first choice cut-off, but make it for the second choice, then you're offered a seat at your second choice school. The same applies for choices further down the ranking.

Here’s the catch: Once students hand in their exams they can’t change the ranking. Every year Insideschools gets pleas for help from frantic parents telling us that on exam day their children decided to switch the order of the schools, only to regret it as soon they left the testing center. Our advice: Decide on the ranking order ahead of the exam and then stick to the plan.

Learn more by reading our answers to common questions about applying to the specialized high schools.

Admissions methods : Still unsure what admissions terms like “limited unscreened” and “educational option” mean? Check out the graphic on page 5 of the 2016 New York City High School Directory, which explains the various admissions methods and what student information schools consider under each method.

Auditions : The experience varies by school, but some auditions can take hours, with students spending most of the time waiting for their turn. Our advice: Bring a snack, something to drink and something to keep you calm while you pass the time—a book, puzzles, or music (with headphones).

Reminder: This year a dozen arts schools, including LaGuardia, have common audition components, so you don't have to prepare different auditions for each of those schools.

Interviews : Be prompt, be prepared, be enthusiastic and be yourself. Talk about what you genuinely like to do and why you like the school in your own words.

Some schools interview students in small groups, so if you are on the quiet side, do your best to speak up. And, if you love to talk, that’s great, but remember to be polite and not interrupt when the interviewer or another student is speaking.

Helpful Resources

Check out our How to Apply section for videos and written guides to help you through the high school admissions process.

Read our tips on what to look for and ask at the high school fairs.

DOE's High School Directory

DOE's Specialized High School Student Handbook and timeline for open houses and SHSAT dates.

The DOE offers translated versions of its resources in nine different languages, which you can find here.