The New York City Department of Education (DOE) just wrapped up their summer-time series of high school admissions workshops, including several that focused on the city's nine specialized high schools. Bronx Science, Brooklyn Latin, Brooklyn Tech, High School for American Studies, High School for Math, Science and Engineering, LaGuardia, Queens High School for the Sciences, Staten Island Tech, and Stuyvesant. Didn’t make it to a workshop? Don’t worry. You can find a recap of the July high school information sessions here, and there will be plenty of opportunities to learn about the specialized high schools in the fall at open houses and at the city- and borough-wide high school fairs

Meanwhile here's a heads-up on what you can be doing this summer to prepare.

If you’re interested in attending one of the eight, test-in specialized high schools, you'll need to take the SHSAT (Specialized High School Admissions Test). You’ll also need to study for the SHSAT and if you haven’t done so already, summer is a great time to prep for the exam.

LaGuardia is the only specialized high school that does not require students to take the SHSAT. Instead, students are admitted based on an audition (and portfolio if applying to the art studio) as well as their middle school grades, state test scores and attendance records. Just like taking the SHSAT, students need to prepare for auditions. You can learn more about LaGuardia's audition process on the school's website. This year for the first time 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.

Summer is also a great time to start researching and compiling a list of all the high schools you want to apply to in the fall. 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, reader comments, information on sports, activities and admissions policies, and InsideStats—a compilation of useful data we provide for every school in the city.

Here are our answers to some frequently asked questions about the specialized high schools:

_ Q.   What kinds of support do the specialized schools offer new students to help them with the social and academic transition to high school?_

A.  It varies by school, but all of them offer some form of support to new students. Incoming 9th- and 10th-graders attend orientation sessions ahead of the first day of school. Several schools have "Big Sib" programs that buddy older students with incoming 9th- and 10th-graders to help them adjust. Others have advisories or special classes dedicated to skills such as research or writing. In general, staff at the smaller schools get to know students much better and can often spot problems or changes sooner.

_ Q. How much homework do students have each night?_

A. In the lower grades, students should expect an average of three hours of homework each night, though it can be more when papers and projects are assigned—especially when students procrastinate. In the upper grades, a typical homework load increases to 4-5 hours depending on how many advanced and college level courses students choose to take.

_ Q. Can I apply to both the test-in specialized high schools and LaGuardia?_

A. Yes. Each year many students do just that and end up with offers from both a test-in specialized high school and LaGuardia. In fact, at LaGuardia you can audition for, and be accepted to, more than one studio. Of course, you’ll have to choose among your offers. You cannot accept admission to more than one high school (or program within a school) in order to buy yourself additional time to decide.

_ Q.   Do the test-in specialized high schools look at middle school grades and state ELA and math scores too?_

A.   No. It's all about the SHSAT. A student’s academic record is never considered during the admissions process to a test-in specialized high school. Unlike LaGuardia, the eight, test-in specialized high schools do not select students. In fact, they have no say in who is admitted to their schools. Instead, they are assigned students based on an algorithm that factors in each student's SHSAT score, how each student ranks her preferences for attending the schools and the number of seats available. 

_ Q. I can’t afford to pay for an SHSAT prep course, is it still worth it to take the SHSAT in the fall?_

A. Yes, but study! While it is true that many kids take some sort of SHSAT prep course, it’s also true that plenty of students get into a specialized high school by studying on their own. There are lots of low-cost prep books that you can buy at a local bookstore or online. These books provide many of the same kinds of tips and advice that you’d get in a prep class. The DOE publishes a free specialized high school directory that includes practice exam questions and test-taking tips. Some community organizations offer free SHSAT prep to students. This varies from year to year and it's worth asking agencies in your neighborhood if they offer one.

Remember: Studying for the SHSAT is a process (which is why you should start now). Don’t get discouraged if at first you struggle with the practice questions. It’s important to read the tips and mini lessons at the start of each section of the prep book and not just answer the practice questions. After taking a practice test, make sure to read the explanations in the answer key. If you think you need to learn or re-learn a specific skill tested on the SHSAT and the prep books do not give enough guidance, try a free online tutoring program like Khan Academy.

The DOE offers a free, 22-month-long SHSAT prep course called DREAM-SHSI, but it is only open to 6th-graders that meet additional eligibility requirements.

_ Q. How do I sign up for the SHSAT?_

A.   You'll need a ticket in order to take the exam. Speak with your guidance counselor in September. Registration for the exam and audition is from Sept. 10-Oct. 15. Tickets will be distributed on Oct. 21, according to the DOE.

_ Q.   I attend a private or parochial school. How do I sign up for the SHSAT?_

A.   Speak with your child's guidance counselor, or whoever handles high school admissions.  They'll arrange for your child to get an admissions ticket. If you run into problems at your school, you can always go to a Family Welcome Center to register.

_ Q. I just moved to New York City, is it too late to get into a specialized high school for this fall?_

A.  If you're an incoming 9th- or 10th-grader who moved to the city after last year's exam or audition, you may take the SHSAT on Aug. 25 and audition for LaGuardia on Aug. 27. You'll need to register by Aug. 18 at a Family Welcome Center. You can find more information on the DOE’s website.

Insideschools has a mobile high school search tool that is available when you access Insideschools on a cell phone or other mobile device.