High school applications are due on Tuesday, Dec. 2. Have you made your list yet?
If you are still undecided where to apply, or how to rank your 12 choices, we've got last minute tips for you.
We have been visiting high schools all fall, updating our reviews and adding new slideshows. Read our school profiles and check the comments section too. Wondering what other students and parents, and even teachers, think of the school? Our InsideStats section tells you that.
If you're looking for a school with a specific theme, or one that's close to home, check out our new high school search on your desktop or mobile device. You can search by borough, subway line, middle school grades or keyword, sifting through hundreds of high schools to find the best matches.
Here are our suggestions of what to consider as you apply.
Filling out the application :
Be careful when drawing up your list of (up to) 12 high school choices. You don't have to fill in all the slots. Don't list a school you are not willing to attend. If you are assigned to a school you hate, but listed it on your application, it will be very hard to get placed elsewhere.
But....make sure you apply to enough schools—with a variety of admissions methods—to increase your chances of getting a match. How many? Fewer than six might not be enough.
Rank your favorite school first. There's no need to play guessing games or set up an elaborate strategy. Schools will not see which students rank them first, so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by ranking your top choice number one.
Don't apply to a school for which you absolutely do not qualify. If a school looks for students with a minimum 85 average or above and your GPA is 70, your chances of getting accepted are slim to none. Likewise, if you live in Queens and you're applying to a popular District 2 school that gives preference to Manhattan, you're not likely to be accepted.
If you have a zoned school, it will be printed on your application, but you must list it as one of your choices to be given priority in admissions.
Many large schools offer several programs. If you really want to attend a certain school, apply to more than one program.
Make sure your parent signs off on your final application. Nobody, including your guidance counselor, should persuade you to add choices without consulting your parent or guardian.
Keep a copy of your completed application and get a receipt from your guidance counselor when you hand it in.
Poor attendance or lateness record? Ask the guidance counselor to attach a note to your application indicating any extenuating circumstances such as an illness, which affected your being in school regularly.
Bad grades or scores in 7th grade? If you are doing much better in 8th grade, see if the guidance counselor will attach a copy of your first quarter report card to the application to show the progress you have made.
What to consider when choosing a school
_ Admissions criteria _: Some schools require an interview, an essay, or the submission of school work. Make sure you've done what you needed to do.
_ Small school or large? _ Small schools offer more personal attention and a sense of community. Large schools tend to have more sports teams, clubs and choice in courses. Need help deciding? Watch our video: Weighing your options: Large school vs small school.
_ Fast-track or laid-back? _ Some schools pile on the homework. Other schools have a slower pace and encourage kids to relax a bit. Think about what's best for you. Will you thrive in a rigorous and competitive environment? Or, are you more likely to learn and excel when the pressure's off?
_ "Chalk & talk" or "hands-on" learning? _ Many large schools stick to conventional ways of teaching: Teacher lectures and standard textbook homework. Other schools practice more "hands-on" activities, with group projects and even lots of field trips. Consider which approach best meets your learning style.
_ New school or well-established? _ It's nice to go to a school with a proven track record. Most new schools take a few years to develop high level coursework and relationships with college admissions officers, so it can be a gamble to be in the first few graduating classes. However, if you're faced with the choice between an overcrowded, failing neighborhood school or a new untested small school, you might be better off going with the small one, if you feel comfortable with the theme and the leadership.
_ Theme school or general curriculum? _ Be aware that some of the school "themes" exist in name only, especially with schools that now have a different principal than the founder. Ask to see a list of courses currently offered, and whether there are connections with outside organizations that support the school's theme. The academics should be solid, no matter what.
_ How is the commute? _ It's not too late to take a subway or bus ride to the school to see if the commute is doable. Think about what it will be like in the rain and snow, or coming home late in the evening after a sports event or a school performance. Far too many students discover after a few days of school that they can't handle a long commute. Watch our video: Weighing your options: Long trip vs short trip.
_ Does your child have special needs? _ Check out our list of noteworthy special education programs, and watch our video on what to look for when you tour a program. Take a look at the DOE's online guide for high school students receiving special education services; unfortunately the high school directory offers very little help.
More tips for students
Auditioning? Practice first! Many performing arts and visual arts high school hold competitive auditions and expect applicants to be well-prepared. If you haven't had your audition yet, watch this video: How to apply to an audition school.
Don't let your friends choose for you. No school can accept every qualified student, so it's likely that friends will attend different high schools. Trust that you will make new friends.
When you visit school profile pages on Insideschools, make sure to click on the "comments" tab. There's a lot of back and forth conversation going on right now. You can also see a list of AP courses and extra-curricular activities on other tabs.
Lastly, after your fill out your application, you can relax until early March when results are in.
For students who also want to apply to a charter school, applications are due on April 1.