Large high schools with enrollment of at least 1,000 as well as small, selective schools continue to be in high demand according to Department of Education (DOE) data provided to InsideSchools.

Midwood High School once again took the top spot with 10,142 applicants, edging out Townsend Harris—a selective program that only admits students with top grades and test scores—and Francis Lewis, which has topped the list for several years. Midwood and Francis Lewis are massive—each serving more than 4000 students. Townsend Harris, a school of roughly 1,200 students, came in second. Small Eleanor Roosevelt (541 students) and mid-sized Beacon (about 1,500) round out the top five.

The Millenniums (Brooklyn and Manhattan), Central Park East, Baruch, the Bards (Manhattan and Queens) and Manhattan/Hunter Science continue to draw thousands of applications for a relatively few number of seats. It is interesting to note that none of the schools on the list have narrow themes; all offer a broad range of options for students (as well as strong records of performance).

Maspeth High School, which serves roughly 1,200 students mainly from District 24 in Elmhurst, Queens, is the only entirely unscreened school on the list. It admits students via lottery. All other schools in the top 20, including the large neighborhood ones, have some screened programs that admit students based on a review of their grades, audition or completion of a task such as writing an essay.

This year, in the midst of pandemic-related interruptions, the city eased geographic and academic screens at some schools, increasing demand at some smaller selective schools.

Beacon, for example, a popular Manhattan high school that emphasizes student projects over standardized tests, did not look at grades. Instead they asked students to submit an essay, prior student work and a creative piece such as a video, photo or audio recording.

Arts high schools moved to a virtual audition system that allowed students to submit their audition online. Students only needed to create one audition per discipline that could be submitted for all schools that require it.

Additionally, 35 schools participate in a Diversity in Admissions pilot that reserves 50 percent or more of their seats for students who are eligible for free/reduced lunch, a rough measure of poverty.

How students rank their choices

This is the third year that the DOE shared how many students ranked these schools among their top three choices in addition to how many offers were extended by each of the 20 schools.

Take a look at Beacon again, which is open to students citywide and had 7,784 applicants, more than half of whom (56%) ranked the school among their top three choices on the high school application. To fill around 390 seats (including for students with disabilities), Beacon accepted 535 students to accommodate the likelihood that some would choose another option, such as a seat at a specialized, religious or private high school.

The Top 20 list does not include the specialized high schools, which students apply to separately.

Here’s a full rundown of the numbers from the DOE. (Use tabs at the bottom of the sheet to compare 2020 and 2021.)

And check out our visual snapshot of the rate of offers to overall applications for these high demand schools.
Top HS 2021

Viz credit: Nicole Mader