Eighth Graders Scramble to Rank High Schools Ahead of Deadline

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 - 04:00 AM

Erin Hill, a school counselor at The Computer School, has students turn in practice applications ahead of the December deadline. (Yasmeen Khan)

In a system with more than 450 school options, the high school application process in New York City presents a unique challenge for students and their families. The tours, auditions, tests and paperwork - it's a lot for anyone, much less a young teenager contemplating their future in high school and beyond.

SchoolBook spoke to a group of students recently about the selection process, and how they plan to rank schools. They mentioned academics, school size, commute times. And then there are the parents.

"My mom, she chose engineering for me," said Jonathan Paulino, an eighth-grader at J.H.S. 202 Robert H. Goddard in Queens. But his priority? "I want to play basketball, so I looked at high schools with good sports teams," he said.

"They all have their own different personalities, their own interests and there's a school out there for all of them," said Erin Hill, a school counselor at M.S. M245 The Computer School on the Upper West Side. "They need to understand that they can do well in any of them."

Faith Morrisson, who attends M.S. 596 Peace Academy, said she's focused on schools with an emphasis on math and science. While researching high schools takes a lot of work, she said it's hard to imagine any other system.

"I honestly don’t know how, in suburbs, how everybody just go to one big school," she said.


Kashanti Keise, a ninth-grader at In-Tech Academy in the Bronx, agreed.


"It’s way better than going to a zoned school," she said. "But it’s also a lot harder. It's like applying for colleges."


Students rank up to 12 schools on their applications in order of preference. The city uses a computer matching system to place them in one school. It's possible to be accepted to more than one school but only if the student also applied to the specialized high schools and/or an audition school. 

Last year,  the vast majority of students got a high school match; just less than half got their top choice. About 10 percent did not match at all in the first round and had to try again in the spring. To hear more from students knee-deep in the process, click play on the audio player above.


Comments [3]

Your reporter missed the other side of the applications puzzle, the role of guidance counselors who are responsible for ranking students for acceptance. I have that responsibility at my high school. Last year we received over 3,500 applications for our four ninth grade programs which have a total of 370 places. This is the selection process for our Educational Options program. We have approximately 200 spaces in that program. The NYC DOE chooses 100 students. We "choose" the rest. We received 1362 applications in the form of an EXCEL file, not knowing how the students placed us on their forms. I ranked over 600 students, as recommended by the DOE. If I knew the order in which students chose us, it would save time and improve our chances of getting students interested in our programs.

Nov. 20 2013 09:22 PM
LG from UWS

School choice is a veil for not providing high quality education in all neighborhoods. What everybody really needs and wants is a great school around the corner.

This process is not like the college process, which is also unbelievably time consuming and expensive. Once you send out college applications you get acceptance letters and you choose from among them. In the opaque and confounding NYC high school selection process, you are told the one school you got into.

There are not hundreds of choices. Half of NYC high school grads prepared for college come from 20 high schools. Then about 10,000 students don't get any placement. Only in a system designed by people that have no regard for the people the system is meant to serve, and no love for children, could it be acceptable. I would also bet that the number is higher. In my own personal network, I know of many children that didn't get placed.

I found this light-hearted story denies the reality of New York City parents and children. Frankly I think it is shamefully trite reporting.

Nov. 19 2013 12:33 PM
sandye from Brooklyn

As a parent going through this process and "unique challenge" is a complete deflection of the reality. It's a time-eating, frustrating, wasteful and unfair system with far too few decent choices. The competition for the few decent schools is fierce and it pits student against student and unfortunately parent against parent. And what about the 100's of students who don't have parents who have the time to navigate the tours, interviews, auditions and applications with their children, children who get no help from guidance counselors or anyone else?
Just an example, 15,000 kids apply to LaGuardia which has 750 spaces.
I don't even want to start on the testing involved in all of this.
NYC needs numerous better schools and an easier way for students to go to them.
Use all this dubious choice energy and money to that end.
PS You are supposed to list 12 schools. It's hard to find 8 your child, and you, would really like your child to attend.

Nov. 19 2013 07:57 AM

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