The first few months of 8th grade are very hectic, and it’s easy to lose track of all you have to do. If you're not already in the throes of a high school search now’s the time to get focused—and organized. Here’s our advice for managing your high school search.

Research and compile a list of high schools that may be a good fit. Check out our written and video guides on applying to high school. Use our Find a NYC Public School to search among the city’s 400+ high schools for ones that may be good fits for you. Read our high school profiles. Each one includes a written review, school contact information, reader comments, details on sports, activities and admissions policies, and InsideStats—a compilation of useful data we provide for every school in the city.

Mind your calendar. We recommend setting up your own high school admissions calendar. Start by entering key dates such as the citywide and borough fairs, SHSAT (Specialized High School Admissions Test) and the December 1 high school application deadline. In addition, as soon as you sign up for an open house, tour, interview, audition or exam, put the date and time on your calendar. If a school requires applicants to submit a portfolio or project, jot down the due dates for handing them in. Does your 8th-grader have any upcoming projects or activities at her school? Note those too. You don’t want your child to miss out on an important middle school event or end up touring a high school the day of a big exam or presentation in class.

Start signing up for tours and open houses now. Schools that have their own websites typically post open house and tour information online. If the school does not have a website then call them directly to request more information. Some schools require parents and students to register for a tour or open house and these slots tend to fill up fast. Some popular schools, like the Bard High School Early Colleges in Manhattan and Queens have already posted their open house and tour times. If you see that all the tours and open houses are full, keep checking back or call the parent coordinator. Sometimes schools add more tours and open houses in response to high demand. 

Keep track of admissions criteria. You have a lot to remember, so write it all down. Some schools require an interview, an essay, exam, audition or the submission of school work. Make sure you meet all admissions criteria listed in the Department of Education's (DOE) high school directory. Does a school give preference to students who attend an open house? If so, jot that down too and make sure to get to the open house. This year a dozen arts schools, including LaGuardia, have common audition components, so you don't have to prepare different auditions for each school. Check page 15 of the high school directory for the participating schools. Once you have your criteria list set up, keep it handy and check off the admissions requirements as you fulfill them.

Put together a folder of your child’s 7th and early 8th grade work and make copies of the best pieces. Some schools ask to look at samples of student work that were graded by their teacher. Our advice: Start rummaging through closets, drawers and old backpacks now to find your child’s 7th grade work. Also ask him to give you all his completed 8th grade assignments as soon as the teacher hands them back. You don’t want to find out the night before an interview or submissions deadline that your child is missing pages of a research paper, or her A+ math assignment that was on display in the classroom never made it home.

Register for the SHSAT and LaGuardia High School auditions. Students who plan to take the SHSAT or audition for LaGuardia High School will need to register with their middle school guidance counselor by October 15. Students will be assigned a testing or audition date and no one will be admitted to the testing center or audition without an admissions ticket. Guidance counselors will distribute those on October 21. Learn more by reading our answers to common questions about applying to the specialized high schools.

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 includes open house dates for the specialized high schools. 

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

Find a recap of the DOE's summer high school admissions workshops and other helpful resources here.