Stuyvesant High School
Abundant variety of classes and extracurricular opportunities
The most sought-after of the city's specialized high schools, Stuyvesant High School has an amazingly talented student body and an array of course offerings that rival those of a small college. It has a sparkling, 10-story building with views of the New York harbor and features such amenities as a regulation-size swimming pool.
More than 28,000 students vie for just over 800 seats in the freshman class. Roughly one-quarter of Stuyvesant's top graduates go to Ivy League or other highly selective colleges such as MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) or Stanford. Students may conduct research with senior scientists, take part in national math competitions or study music at a high level. Immigrants and children of immigrants make up a large proportion of the student body.
The excitement of being enrolled at Stuyvesant comes from being in the company of very bright, engaged students. The school has long been known for its talented students rather than a uniformly strong teaching staff, and kids say the quality of teaching ranges from memorably great to mediocre or worse. The stronger teachers tend to be assigned to the more advanced classes, one mother said. The course selection is vast, including organic chemistry, vertebrate zoology, multivariate and differential calculus, micro- and macro-economics, Western political thought, video-editing and creative nonfiction.
Stuyvesant has a reputation as an ultra-competitive pressure cooker. Eric Contreras, who became principal in 2016, said he is focusing on the emotional needs of students as well. "It's a feverishly intellectual, ambitious environment and kids are excited to explore the possibilities...it's equally important that we provide the right supports when they find it overwhelming," he told the Wall Street Journal shortly after he was appointed in July 2016. Prior to his arrival, the school’s efforts to shift culture towards a more positive, relaxed atmosphere included freshmen transition meetings taught by guidance counselors, new guidance offices that are more central and inviting, and more flexibility around the computer science and drafting requirements for all students. Contreras added an additional guidance counselor and "has kept his word" about providing more supports for students, a counselor told InsideSchools.
Still, Stuyvesant is a hard place for a B student. Most elective and AP courses require a minimum GPA to qualify, though each student has an opportunity to take at least one AP in his or her best subject. There is an informal cap on the number of APs a student may take, to ensure wider access. Freshmen typically have about three hours of a homework a night; upperclassmen taking AP and advanced courses could have up to five hours some nights. Students who fall behind admit that it’s hard to catch up, especially when juggling the typically heavy load of extra-curriculars. There are tutoring opportunities and teachers who are generous with their time outside of class, but it can be hard for struggling students to get the attention they need. The school works best for kids who are self-starters, self-confident and not afraid to seek out help from adults and other students.
Some classes are taught as seminars, with desks arranged in a circle and plenty of class discussion. But most are traditional, with desks in rows and the teacher at the front doing most of the talking. Science labs are shared by multiple teachers of the same subject, so teachers have no flexibility to divert from the scripted lab notebooks that students fill out like worksheets. This allows for little scientific inquiry by the students, except the 50 or so who qualify to conduct new research with professionals or college faculty as part of the Regeneron Science Talent (formerly INTEL) competition each year. English and social studies offer much greater flexibility for teachers and students to pursue their own interests while still covering core themes and skills. Stuyvesant was founded as a math-science school, but its English and history departments are uniformly strong. In a nod to its roots as a trade school, Contreras opened a maker lab in January 2018.
There are five bands, a jazz combo, a symphony orchestra, a guitar class, many theatrical productions and a strong debate team. There are dozens of sports offered, including rollerblading, cricket, coed wrestling and kickboxing. After-school clubs serve students interests ranging from Chinese chess to film appreciation.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: In recent years, the school has become more sensitive to students with special needs. At the time of our visit, there was one student who was visually impaired and a number with ADHD. "Now we realize that kids who are very, very strong academically may have learning differences and it is our job to support them," said guidance counselor Harvey Blumm. The administration has assigned a guidance counselor to focus on special education, and a psychologist and a social worker are available for counseling.
COLLEGE ADMISSIONS: The school has 13 full-time guidance counselors and three full-time college counselors. One staff member is dedicated to helping students find internships. Top students are accepted by highly competitive universities such as the University of Chicago and small liberal arts colleges such as Swarthmore, Haverford, Kenyon and Macalester, as well as the Ivy League. A good percentage stay local, attending city and state schools.
ADMISSIONS: Students are selected according to their score on the SHSAT (specialized high school admissions test) administered in October. The school offers an open house for prospective students and their parents in the fall. Check the Stuyvesant website for the dates or for a virtual tour. (Nicole Mader, December 2014; updated December 2017)
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Programs and Admissions
Admission to this specialized high school is based solely on the score obtained on the Specialized High Schools Admission Test (SHSAT). Eighth or ninth grade students should speak to their school counselor in the Fall to register for the SHSAT.
French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Mandarin, Spanish
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Art History, AP Biology, AP Calculus AB, AP Chemistry, AP Comparative Government and Politics, AP Computer Science, AP English Language and Composition, AP English Literature and Composition, AP Environmental Science, AP European History, AP French, AP Human Geography, AP Italian, AP Japanese, AP Macroeconomics, AP Microeconomics, AP Music Theory, AP Physics, AP Psychology, AP Statistics, AP U.S. Government and Politics, AP U.S. History
Boys PSAL teams
Badminton, Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Fencing, Football, Gymnastics, Handball, Indoor Track, Lacrosse, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Volleyball, Wrestling
Girls PSAL teams
Badminton, Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Fencing, Golf, Gymnastics, Handball, Indoor Track, Lacrosse, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Softball, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Volleyball
Coed PSAL teams
Cricket, Golf, Stunt
Manhattan NY 10282
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