It's a nail-biting annual ritual: High school acceptance letters arrived this week for nearly 77,000 8th-graders. While most were matched to a school, fewer than half got their first choice and some 3,800, or 5 percent, got no placement at all.

The number getting their first choice declined this year to 33,439 (44 percent), compared to 35,021 (46 percent) in 2017. That's because more students applied to competitive programs, according to the Department of Education.

Here are our tips for what to do next.

I’m happy with my match.

Congratulations! If you were offered a seat at a specialized high school too, and you’re not sure which school you like more, then consider attending an open house for accepted students. The specialized high schools typically host events before the acceptance deadline. If the other school you were matched with is not hosting one, ask if you can stop by to take a quick tour or sit in on a class.

Make sure to accept your Round 1 offer by Monday, March 26.

I am not happy with my match.

It’s hard when you don’t get your top choice, but that doesn’t mean the school you got into isn’t good. Take a fresh look. If it has an open house for admitted students, attend, or ask the school if you can visit one morning for a couple of hours.

Gave it another look and still are unhappy? You can apply to a school with open seats in Round 2, but be aware that if you are accepted to another school, you forfeit your Round 1 match.

Current 9th-graders who are offered a 10th-grade seat during Round 1 or 2 have the option of remaining at their current school.

Don’t like any of the schools in Round 2? Then don’t participate in it. Round 2 is optional for you, and unless you identify a school with open seats that you absolutely like more than your Round 1 match, our advice is don’t apply.

Whether or not you keep your Round 1 match or apply in Round 2, you still have the option to appeal, but that process doesn’t take place till later in May and there are no guarantees.

Want to learn more about Round 2? Read our best picks for Round 2 schools.

Round 2 applications are due by Monday, March 26.

I was not matched with a school.

You are not alone. This year roughly 3800 8th-graders weren’t matched with a school in Round 1. Please know this isn’t your fault. You considered schools and listed the ones you liked on the application. Chances are the ones you liked were the same that many other students liked and there simply were not enough seats to accept everyone who applied.

Since you did not receive a match, you must apply to high schools with open seats in Round 2. You can’t file an appeal until you are matched with a school, so participate in Round 2 and if you are not happy with the outcome, then file an appeal.

Some schools with Round 2 spots are hosting open houses prior to the March 26 application deadline. Check out the Department of Education’s calendar for dates and times. Interested in a school but don’t see it listed on the calendar? Contact the school or speak with its representatives at the Round 2 fair to request a visit before the March 26 application deadline.

Attend the Round 2 high school fair. It is scheduled for March 17 and 18, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Campus in Manhattan. Try to arrive early so you have plenty of time to meet with representatives from each school you’re interested in.

New York City is the best high school of all.

Take heart. No school is perfect, and wherever you go, there are so many ways to enhance your education and fill in the gaps for free. Throughout New York City there are a ton of opportunities both during the school year and over the summer to do internships at museums and with elected officials, conduct research with scientists, perform with theater troupes, learn engineering and robotics, get academic help and much more.

Check out our Free Programs listings to discover all the ways you can pursue your passion, explore new interests and get extra support.