Tips on Navigating the NYC High School Process

So, I haven’t written in a long time and that’s because we’ve got school on the brain. Between the school year starting, me being in school part-time  and our newly-minted teenager going through the NYC public high school application process, my time has been very limited.

Make sure to scroll down for the discount code for High School 411, a service that helps NYC parents navigate the public high school admissions process!

Having said that, we are finally done with the process: 16 tours, 3 separate tests, months of tutoring sessions. I’m not an expert, but having gone through all of that, I do have a few things to say about the process and some helpful tips for those who are preparing to go through the NYC high school process themselves.


  • Extremely-high parent involvement, organization, resources and “know-how”.
  • A parent must be highly organized when signing up for tours, tests and tutoring sessions. See tips below.
  • You’ve got to make the time to go on to the school’s websites, bring your child to the tours, take them to the tests etc.
  • Tutoring for the SHSAT (Specialized High School Achievement Test) can be pricey. Schools and after-school programs may offer free or discounted tutoring. Research is definitely needed.
  • Applications are generally due early December. Acceptance letters come out in early March. This means three months of waiting. (It is one letter that will state the school(s) they have been accepted to from the Specialized, Audition and Regular tracks. See below, under “Tips”.)
  • Choices! We have choices! And having a choice is a good thing. Each child is different with different interests and academic abilities. Luckily, we have schools that can fit practically every child’s interest and need. You can find a curriculum and school environment that works for your child and your family. Schools that are perfect for our 8th grader won’t necessarily be perfect for our younger daughter when it’s her turn.
  • The schools in NYC are amazing and FREE!
  • Know that it will only be for a few months (Late August – Early December) and then you’ll be done. DONE! You just have to work a little hard for a few months, but know that in the end it will be worth it. Then the waiting begins (see last con above).

Tips on Navigating the NYC High School Process:

Fall of 7th grade: Look for, and sign-up for SHSAT  tutors, if that’s a route you’ll be exploring.

Spring of 7th grade: Your child’s middle school will probably call an all-grade meeting in the spring to discuss with you the process and hand out to you the DOE’s High School Directory. If not, make an appointment with your guidance counselor.

Summer before 8th grade: Look through the High School Directory and start choosing schools that interest you and your child. There are three tracks that your child can apply for in the public school system:

Specialized High Schools: This list of 8 schools include Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech. Taking the SHSAT test is the only way to apply to these schools.

Audition High Schools: These require a portfolio or a performance. These schools include are LaGuardia, Frank Sinatra, Talent Unlimited. You’ll have to go to each school’s Admissions Page to understand what they need for auditions.

Main Round Schools: This is the majority of NYC schools and each one will have its own admissions process and rubric. Visit each of the school’s websites and look under their Admissions Page for specific information including tour dates, open houses and testing dates.

Start an Excel Spread sheet or Google Doc to keep track of tour dates and notes from each school visit.

August – September of 8th grade: Visit the high school’s websites to sign up for tours and open-houses; understand their admissions process. Tours are held during school hours so you can see the school “in action”. Open houses are after school hours so you won’t see the hustle and bustle but you’ll get to meet with administration, teachers and students.

Rank as many schools as possible that you and your child feels good about. There’s room for 12 Main Round schools. It’s better to be accepted into a Round 1 school than a Round 2 school (according to our guidance counselors). Note: You don’t have to rank Specialized or Audition Schools. When your child takes the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), you rank directly on the test form; Audition Schools automatically know you’re applying because your child will be auditioning.

Find a parent-friend who has older kids and have gone through the process and don’t let go of them. It is through these parent-friends who have told me when to sign-up for tutoring sessions and to sign up for HS411 (see discount code below!)

Sign up for HS411. Elissa Stein, a NYC mom of teenagers, has gone through the public school process twice. She helps guide NYC parents through the process for each of the three tracks via an online members-only list-serve. Best part: she lets you know when tour and open house sign-ups are live, which is invaluable! (We were on vacation during Labor Day weekend when tour sign-ups went live — yes on a holiday weekend — and I was able to sign up for a “hot” tour because Elissa emailed subscribers!)

HS411 Discount Code for TTM NYC Readers!

20% off your HS411 subscription using code: triplethreat2016

*Regularly $150, and with code $120. Code good until 12/31/16.

This post is not sponsored in any way. All opinions expressed are mine. 

Read more about the NYC Public High School process over at Mommy Poppins.