At High School Fairs, Many Choices and a Few Worries

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Middle school students in New York City had another opportunity this weekend to look over the city's high schools, this time at borough high school fairs, as they try to narrow down the choices for their application ballots.

With the main round applications due to school counselors by Dec. 2, the choice process begins to accelerate. Eighth graders take the examination for entry to the specialized high schools on Saturday or Sunday, and ninth graders have their chance on Nov. 5.

Tickets to audition for the La Guardia High School for the Performing Arts will be available next Monday.

The students who attend the high school fairs are often the most organized and focused. In fact, some were seventh graders and said they were getting a jump on the process. All said they felt they had plenty of options. Still, many said they are feeling immense pressure to make the right choice.

Their biggest worry: not getting into the school they want. But, said Andrea Isidoro, 13, of Harlem, who is an eighth grader at the Global Neighborhood Secondary School in Manhattan, "that's everybody's problem."

SchoolBook asked students (and parents and teachers) at the fair how the search has gone so far, and for advice for others. Here are some of the students and their responses.

At the borough high school fair in Brooklyn on Sunday, Edward R. Murrow High School:

Tyler Mayleas
Age: Turning 12
Grade: Seventh
Middle school: Junior High School 278 Marine Park
Neighborhood: Sheepshead Bay

Preparation for the search: "I went to the open house for Murrow High School, and now we’re here, we’ve been reading a lot, and I’m going to speak to the schools I’m interested in today."

Parent participation: "My mom brought us here today." He was with his mother, Alison Mayleas; his sister Emily Mayleas, 10, in fifth grade; and with his younger brother Ryan, 5. Ms. Mayleas: “We’re doing the leg work early, because there’s just not enough time between the open houses and the decisions. I brought everyone because his sister Emily’s right around the bend education-wise; she’s in fifth grade. It’s such a big process, you have to start so early. You can’t breathe, don’t have time to stop thinking about it — it’s a headache and a hassle! We just finished enrolling in middle schools and now we have to worry about this ...”

To-do: "More high school fairs, more reading/research, speaking with all the schools here at the fair, looking for a school with a good music program."

Advice he was given: "Start looking early!"

Advice to give: "Start looking early!"

The process so far: "All the choices are all kind of exciting, but I’m kind of nervous about finding a good music program. I play the drums and the flute, and that’s important to me."

Worries: "Finding a good school with a good music program."

Chaim Greem
Age: 12
Grade: Seventh
Middle School: Trey Whitfield School
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill

Preparation for search: "We went to another high school fair yesterday, in Manhattan. I also have two older brothers that went through the process, so I talked to them."

Parent participation: With both his parents and a younger brother.

To-do: "Keep getting good grades, keep researching schools with good arts programs."

Advice he was given: "I have two older brothers who went through the process. My brothers helped me get in the mindset, they told me seventh grade is the strongest year for grades, and to do your best in seventh grade. They said you can’t do bad in seventh grade! (Dad: “He has a 95-plus average, a very high grade, so he’ll get into a good specialized school.”)

Advice to give: "You shouldn’t pick a school because your friends want you to. If it’s a bad school, then you won’t succeed in the future."

The process so far: "I’m kind of nervous by all the choices, but I kind of like it, too. I want to make the right choice. There are so many schools, but the government picks just one."

Worries: "Finding a good arts program."

Maritza Alarcon, education director of the Navy Yard Clubhouse branch of the Boys and Girls Club, College Bound program (serving Farragut/Fort Greene/Dumbo) brought the following five students:

Teresa Castro
Age: 13
Grade: Eighth
Middle School: Dr. Susan S. McKinney Secondary School of the Arts
Neighborhood: Farragut

Preparation for search: "I wrote a list of all the high schools I read about and I’m interested in — I’ve been looking at high schools all summer. I filled out a high school application, and went to all the school tables of those on my list, except those that didn’t show up. I looked at all the schools with medical programs, like the Benjamin Bennaker Academy. I want to be a pediatric surgeon."

Parent participation: "My mom talks to me about this a lot. She’s the one who told me I didn’t have to be either a pediatrician or a surgeon, and that I could do both and be a pediatric surgeon."

To do: "Talk to people from all the schools on my list, go to the Brooklyn Tech open house."

Advice she was given: "Go to all the open houses."

Advice to give: "Think ahead."

The process so far: "I’m excited but there are so many schools, and some of the ones I wanted to see today aren’t here! Their tables are empty."

Worries: "That I won’t get into the schools I want to go to. I also think about my friends."

I-Shamell Mitchell
Age: 13
Grade: Eighth
Middle School: Middle School 113
Neighborhood: Fort Greene

Preparation for search: "I’ve been speaking to all my football coaches about a school with good academics, and putting academics before football. I’ve played for five years as a running back for the Brooklyn Pitbulls, a league outside of school. But teams and schools are obsessed with your report card."

Parent participation: Yes.

To-do: "Talk to Midwood, Grady, Abe Lincoln, New Utrecht ..."

Advice he was given: "On the first day of high school, start being friends with your assistant principal, your principal, your guidance counselor for college. I want to go to Auburn University and study health."

Advice to give: "If you’re going, pick wisely, you can’t always be down with your friends, you just go to the high school you want to go to. Don’t follow the crowd, be one of the leaders."

The process so far: "I’m really excited to go to a new school and make new friends, do better things."

Worries: "I’m not nervous about schools ... but I am nervous I can’t finish my football career, that there aren’t many schools with good academics and football."

Myles H’orry
Age: 12
Grade: Seventh
Middle School: Satellite West
Neighborhood: Farragut

Preparation for search: "I’m part of the Boys and Girls Club college bound program for juniors, and last year we took a trip to Columbia University with our clubhouse, and it was very interesting. I decided I want a school with a campus, so I can leave my PJ's on and go to class. The Boys and Girls club is helping me choose wisely."

Parent participation: Yes

To-do: "More open school nights that are coming up."

Advice he was given: "Choose more schools, choose wisely."

Advice to give: "Think about what you want to do: art, business, sports. I started in third grade, when I went to my aunt’s high school reunion at A. Philip Randolph High School, and I said I want to go there."

The process so far: "Being here is kind of fun, but the three main high schools I’m interested in aren’t here. I don’t know why, but I’ll find out ..."

Worries: "I’m pretty confident. ... I just have to go to more open houses."

Jaziah Williams
Age: 12
Grade: Seventh
Middle School: Public School 282 Park Slope
Neighborhood: Farragut

Preparation for search: "I wasn’t prepared like she was," (pointing to Teresa Castro next to her), "but I got feedback from my family. My brother is 16, and goes to Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn, but my mom wants me to work harder for a specialized school, she thinks I can do better. We looked online, Googled Web sites. ..."

Parent participation: Yes

To-do: "I want to be a vet, so I need to look at which schools would be good for that. I always want to look at schools that offer dancing."

Advice she was given: "Always stay focused."

Advice to give: "There’s always a time for games, a time for work, but don’t confuse the two because there might be a big commotion."

The process so far: "I was really excited to come here today, but I’m also nervous to make the right choice."

Worries: "I just saw Bronx Special, they say you have to get a 90 average, they’re looking for the top students and that made me kind of nervous not to slip up, but motivated me to work harder and focus."

Crystal Ng
Age: 12
Grade: Eighth
Middle School: Intermediate School 281 Joseph B. Cavallaro
Neighborhood: Bensonhurst

Preparation for search: "I’ve only recently been preparing, attending fairs, open houses — today is my first high school fair."

Parent participation: "My parents are both here today."
To-do: "I like medical science, and I want to be a doctor, so I’m trying to figure out which school might be best for that."

Advice she was given: "I’ve been asking my cousin for advice; she’s in high school at Bard Early College, and she recommended some schools to me. She told me to be concerned — there’s a lot of pressure to make the right choice."

Advice to give: "I’d say try your best, use your best efforts, take what you’ve learned and the subjects you want to learn."

The process so far: "I’m excited to explore the schools, and to actually go there, but I think it’s actually going to be kind of tough."

Worries: See above

Harry Flax
Age: 13
Grade: Eighth
Middle School: Bay Ridge Prep
Neighborhood: Park Slope

Preparation for search: "I’m leaving a private school for a public school, so I’ve been looking for smaller schools that have wrestling. So far we’ve found two here at the fair today."

Parent participation: "My mom’s here with me. And my older brother who graduated from a public school has been looking up schools for me and recommending them."

To do: "To go to more high school fairs, more open houses."

Advice he was given: "To look for a smaller school — you can get more attention in smaller classes."

Advice to give: "I would ask someone: ‘What are your interests? Are you looking somewhere big or small? Do you want a dress code or not?’ "

The process so far: "I’m nervous and excited to be looking for a public school, and doing my own thing. About a third of my classmates from private school are staying there, most want to go elsewhere, some private and some public."

Worries: "I’m a bit worried about blending in; it’s a new school so the first day is always nerve-racking. But exciting, too."

Weronika Jurski
Grade: Eighth
Middle School: Holy Name of Jesus School
Neighborhood: Ocean Parkway

Preparation for search: "Reading this big book" (holding up a high school fair directory), "reading online, talking to friends for advice."

Parent participation: "My mother’s here with me, very involved."
Her mother, Lydia Rys: “Being here, I feel 200 percent better about public schools. People here are so nice, open and patient. When we go home, I’ll have to do lots of thinking. Catholic schools are very small, they’re nice, but they don’t have all the activities, and it will be good for her.”

To do: "More preparation, reading all the fliers from the fair today."

Advice she was given: "Friends told us to look at Midwood, Park Slope, this school. ..."

Advice to give: "Prepare in advance, prepare from seventh grade. At the private school, no one said anything about open houses, and you need to prepare for them."

The process so far: "I’m excited about leaving for a public school and being able to have more school activities like swimming and volleyball, which I didn’t get to do at my private school. It's time for a change! Too many choices, but they’re good choices!"

Darryl Robinson
Age: 13
Grade: Eighth
Middle School: I.S. 340
Neighborhood: Crown Heights

Preparation for search: "I’ve been preparing my grades for a high chance of acceptance; I’m having fun, but I’m also doing work."

Parent participation: "My mom is a huge supporter; when I’m tired, she gives me that drive, to be a better person."

To-do: "Keep working hard in school."

Advice he was given: "Keep that drive."

Advice to give: "Work hard in school."

The process so far: "My main interests are technology and football, and it’s hard to find a school with a balance; it’s rare to find both."

Worries: "I’m not worried; it’s a new stage in life, a steppingstone. Going to high school is exciting, and it will determine my future."

Armando McFarlane
Age: 13
Grade: Eighth
Middle School: I.S. 340
Neighborhood: Parkside

Preparation for search: "Studying, getting good sleep, staying encouraged, focused. I knew I wanted to go to Midwood since my brother went there, and I put Midwood’s picture on my wall to stay motivated."

Parent participation: "I’ve been staying in contact with my brother’s teachers. My brother, Kareem Charles, is 19 and went to Midwood. When I came to visit him, I said: ‘Wow, this is big. Their school plays — their tech — I want to be in it.' "

To do: "I’m taking a specialized high school test on Saturday, so hopefully that goes well. In case I don’t get into Midwood, my next choice is Brooklyn Tech."

Advice he was given: "Stay focused."

Advice to give: "Work hard, don’t let negative comments put you down, look forward and do your best."

At the high school borough fair in Manhattan on Sunday, Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Campus:

Andrea Isidoro
Age: 13
Grade: Eighth
Middle School: Global Neighborhood Secondary School
Neighborhood: Harlem

Preparation for search: "I’ve been asking different questions for the major I’m studying, like how many dance classes there are every day, and how they school does academic-wise."

Parent participation: "My instructor" (Yvonne Chow) "has helped me out. I went with her to one of the open houses, and she gave me ideas for questions to ask about how arts and academics go together."

To do: "I’m here to check out the schools I applied for and ask questions. I still need to go to a few open houses."

Advice she was given: "To go to auditions, to practice and to go to open houses."

Advice to give: "I’d say ask a lot of questions and see how the school is doing in their performance."

The process so far: "Pretty easy."

Worries: "Not getting into a school I want, but that’s everybody’s problem."

Stacey Vidal
Age: 13
Grade: Eighth
Middle School: P.S. 278
Neighborhood: Inwood, Manhattan

Preparation for search: "I’m preparing my arts portfolio and getting ready for classes on acting. I’m hoping I do well on the specialized high school test, too. The three schools I really want to get into are La Guardia, Stuyvesant and Bronx Science, so I’ve gone on their Web sites."

Parent participation: "My mom is trying to give me info about the schools I want to go to."

To do: "I still need to go to a lot of open houses."

Advice she was given: "To study, go to the school Web sites and go to a lot of open houses."

Advice to give: "I would recommend to come here. The high school fair gives you more info than the high schools because people who go to the actual school are here."

The process so far: "For visual arts, art examples are something they require. The examples that I saw here were not like what we learned, and not what we prepared for. We know the basics but I don’t feel prepared."

Worries: "Nothing, I’m not worried."

Shabri Cummings
Age: 13
Grade: Eighth
Middle school: P.S. 175 City Island
Mount Vernon, N.Y.

Preparation for search: "The guidance counselor gave me the application and told me about the 150-word essay and the auditions. I have all of the monologues picked out that I’m going to use."

Parent participation: "My mom is mostly the one who looks for schools for me. Most of the talent school open houses are during the school day; I really appreciate my mom."

To do: "I still have to memorize the monologues. They say you should know at least two, one for the first audition and the second for callbacks."

Advice he was given: "My guidance counselor told me to practice a lot and don’t drop the ball."

Advice to give: "I would tell them never give up and not to slack off, as most teenagers like to do. I like to slack off, too, and get something to eat and watch TV, but you still have to work. I’d also tell them to choose something they like."

The process so far: "I wasn’t expecting to write essays because I’m going into technical theater. Also, there’s a lot of choices. I wanted to do script and screenwriting, then I saw technical theater; that’s an example of them wanting kids to express themselves, which I like."

Worries: "Auditions, that’s the big thing that’s worrying me; will I get into one of these schools?"

Kameron Gil
Age: 12
Grade: Seventh
Middle school: Mott Hall II
Neighborhood: Upper West Side

Preparation for search: "I’m here because my mom is getting really paranoid and I’m getting really paranoid. But my middle school is being helpful to me. They told me I need a portfolio, an 85 percent average, and no more than five absences in your seventh-grade year."

Parent participation: "My mom went to the info session at my school; she took notes, fliers and even recorded some of it on her phone."

To do: "If I were to tell you what’s on my to-do list, I’d be 37 before I left this conversation; all of these schools want something different. I’m preparing for the SHSATS at the moment."

Advice he was given: "They told me to keep a portfolio, but the teachers keep every piece of work they can for us. My school has it all set up for me, and all I need to do is get the binder."

Advice to give: "I’d tell others that they want to be calm about it. If you get nervous you’re going to lose sight of getting into the school you want."

The process so far: "My middle school told me everything I need to know."

Worries: "My mom is nervous; she tells me you have to improve on this or that because the high school might say you're not up to snuff."

Tamia Gist
Age: 14
Grade: Eighth
Middle school: Satellite Three
Borough: Bronx

Preparation for search: "I read and do research on the schools."

Parent participation: "My mom also reads and does research. My sister Tia went through the process already so she knows a lot."

To do: "I need to start studying more get better grades."

Advice she was given: "The guidance counselor said to keep studying and practice dancing."

Advice to give: "I would tell them to stay focused on school, to practice and just keep trying."

The process so far: "I wish I had more choices like a regular performing arts school. I’d also like to see more hip-hop classes in the schools."

Worries: "I feel good about the process."

Telia Blake
Age: 12
Grade: Seventh
Middle school: The Museum School
Borough: Bronx

Preparation for search: "I looked at schools with journalism programs like Urban media school and Syracuse."

Parent participation: "My mom is here and has helped me search for schools."

To do: "Bringing up my grades to a 90 percent and trying to maintain. I’m also part of the Wingspan Theater Group and do community service by singing to the elderly."

Advice she was given: "We have to pick the high school that’s best for us."

Advice to give: "To pick the high school you’re drawn to."

Process so far: "That there are a bunch of high schools, and you have to pick based on all of these different things."

Worries: "If I get into the school I want to get into."

David Acevedo
Age: 13
Grade: Eighth
Middle school: Frederick Douglass Academy V. Middle School
Borough: Bronx

Preparation for search: "I always ask the same questions at each school I visit and try to ask the teachers questions because they know more."

Parent participation: "If I don’t get into my first choice, my mom had about 10 pamphlets in her hand just in case. I have my top five and she picked out 10 in addition."

To do: "I want to get into Pace so I have to go to their open house. That’s the No. 1 thing I have to do."

Advice he was given: "When I enrolled in middle school, my sister said to get good grades. As soon as I went into seventh grade, I remembered that."

Advice to give: "Keep your grades high. You want to get a high school that is your first priority, like how I’ll probably get into Pace."

The process so far: "There’s something called limited screening. So if you get an F on a report card you still have a shot at the school you want."

Worries: "My sister tried to get into a school, and I’m not sure what happened but she didn’t get in. They sent her to a random high school; it turned out good, but I don’t want that to happen to me."

Matiese Grosch
Age: 13
Grade: Eighth
Middle school: M.S. 180 Dr. Daniel Hale Williams
Borough: Bronx

Preparation for search: "I was just looking at high schools with things I am interested in, like technology. I haven’t decided which one yet because there are a lot of schools that offer technology and science."

Parent participation: "My dad has helped me by showing me different options instead of one avenue for a career. We’ve also looked at the school Web sites and go to the open houses. But we’ve gone to the schools on off days, too, to see what they’re like when there’s not an open house."

To do: "We’re planning to visit more schools."

Advice he was given: "My teachers offered extra curricular activities and had extended time in school to help us prepare for auditions and give us extra practice time for tests."

Advice to give: "I don’t have much advice except pick the proper school for you."

The process so far: "Nothing has really surprised me about the process, but there was one school where I wasn’t really considering that choice, but then they talked to me today and the guy was pretty nice. It sparked my interest."

Worries: "It could make you nervous if you have one school set in your mind and you don’t get in. I’m more worried about traveling from the Bronx to Manhattan; it can be pretty long and crowded on the train."