There are over 500 public and private high schools in New York City, and all of them have their own personalities. Some are free, and others cost in excess of $35,000. Some are traditional high schools, while others specialize in the performing arts, aviation and other fields. This section will help you understand the differences among the high schools in the metropolitan area as well as how to navigate the fairly complicated admissions process.
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In most American cities, families send their children to the public high school in their neighborhood. New York City is different. In fact, most people living in New York City do not have a zoned neighborhood high school. Only families who live in Staten Island, Queens, parts of Brooklyn and the Riverdale section of the Bronx have zoned high schools and are able to skip the extensive application process--if they are satisfied with their zoned school. The families who do not have a zoned high school or are dissatisfied with their neighborhood school have to apply to either a public or private New York City high school.
Fortunately, there are more than 500 public and private high schools in the metropolitan area, and many provide an excellent education. The traditional public and private high school admissions process begins in September of your child’s 7th or 8th grade year. This requires that you make an early decision when your child is in middle school. Moreover, the public school system asks you to list up to 12 high schools to which you want to apply. If you are interested in attending a private high school, we encourage people to apply to 6 to 8 schools. Thus, you may have to start visiting schools during your child’s 7th grade year to allow your family sufficient time to visit enough high schools and decide to which schools you want to apply.
If you are applying to private schools, the admissions process is similar across schools, and applicants will be asked to tour the school, complete an application, write an essay, be tested, send your child’s middle school transcript, and the parents and child may be interviewed.
In contrast, the application process for public schools varies by where you live in the City and by type of school. Selective high schools assess students on the basis of one or more of the following items:
- Writing sample
- Recommendations from a former middle school teacher
- Student interviews
- Middle school transcripts
- Standardized test scores
- Performance on a school exam
High School Entrance Exams
Most private schools, Catholic schools and specialized public high schools require their applicants to submit their scores from a standardized test. For example, eight of the nine specialized public high schools and some of the selective public high schools require applicants to take the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). Most private day high schools require applicants to submit their scores from the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) administered by the Education Records Bureau (ERB), while most boarding high schools require their applicants to take the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT). Finally, most Catholic high schools require applicants to take one of three entrance exams, the Test for Admissions into Catholic High Schools (TACHS), the Cooperative Entrance Exam (COOP), and the High School Placement Test (HSPT).
Please click on the following link to learn more about the high school entrance exams.
More Information about the Admissions Process
To obtain more detailed information about applying to private schools, please click on the Private High School Admissions Process link.
To learn more about the registration rules and requirements of the New York City public school system, please click on the Public School Education Process link.
Please see the handout section near the bottom of the parent guide to learn tips regarding the school tours, writing a compelling essay for the application, reference letters, entrance exams, admissions officers' pet peeves, admissions decisions as well as financial aid and scholarships.
To identify which high schools meet your child’s and family’s needs, you will first have to consider your child’s educational profile as well as your family’s educational goals and practical concerns.
Your Child's Educational Profile
Your child's educational profile consists of her or his:
- Basic learning ability
- Skill development
- Special interests
- Learning style
- Motivation to learn
- Social issues
Please click on the following link to learn more about these aspects of your child's educational profile.
Your Family's Educational Goals And Practical Considerations
Regardless of your child’s skill development and interests, parents may also have academic goals and/or practical considerations that are important. Some educational issues that you may want to consider are:
Moreover, there may some practical considerations that are important, including:
Please click here to learn more about your family's educational profile and practical concerns.
Once you have a clear understanding of your goals as well as your child’s academic and social profile, you are ready to identify the schools that would be a good fit. The following are some characteristics you will want to consider:
- Public versus private school
- For public schools: what type of school
- For private schools: prestigious or lesser known schools
- Educational philosophy
- Large versus small schools
- School structure
- School culture
- Coeducational versus single sex schools
- Feeder schools
Please click on the following link to learn more detailed information regarding high school characteristics.
School Finder and Comparison Tool
To help parents navigate the high school admissions process, the website has a school finder as well as a school comparison tool that will allow parents to identify a set of schools that meet your child's and family's needs as well as compare these schools' characteristics (e.g., school type, cost, test scores, graduation rates). To learn more about this service, please click on the School Finder Tab above.
Moreover, the website has handouts that help parents prepare for the school tour, child and parent interviews and entrance exams.
Please click on the following links to download the handouts:
- High school tour handout
- Writing a compelling essay for the application
- Reference letter handout
- Admissions decisions handout
- Admissions officers' pet peeves
- The ISEE and SSAT Private High School Entrance Exam Handout
- The TACHS, COOP and HSPT Catholic High School Entrance Exam Handout
- Financial aid and scholarships handout
We also provide more personal services to help parents navigate the high school admissions process, including eduprofile, workshops and individual consulting. The remaining section describes each of these services in greater detail. To learn how to purchase these services, please click on the Our Services tab.
We have created a survey that will help us determine your child’s educational profile as well as your family’s educational goals and practical concerns. More specifically, the survey asks you about your child’s basic learning capacity, skill development, special interests, learning styles, motivation to learn, social temperament and disabilities. In addition, the questionnaire asks parents questions regarding the importance of various educational characteristics (e.g., what content is emphasized, teaching methods, and school community) as well as any practical considerations that are important, including the school’s type, location, educational approach, schedule, and cost. Once we have reviewed the survey, we will send you information about your child’s educational profile as well as a list of schools that we think will meet your child’s and family’s needs.
We offer two 2-hour high school workshops:
- Navigating the New York City high school admissions process
- Preparing children for the entrance exams
The high school admissions process workshop provides parents with tips regarding 1) how to identify the private and public high schools that meet your families’ needs, 2) the logistics of the admissions process, 3) touring schools, 4) preparing your child for interviews, 5) writing a compelling essay, and 6) juggling acceptances and wait-list offers.
The second workshop, preparing students for the high school entrance exams, explains the rationale behind the admissions tests required by many high schools. Parents will also learn how to prepare their children for the exams as well as how to ensure that they are as comfortable as possible on the date of the test.
Individual Consulting Services
We provide individual consulting services to parents who would like help navigating the public and private high school admissions process. More specifically, we can help parents with any one or all of the following steps:
Step 1) Develop your child's and family's educational profile
Step 2) Identify the high schools that meet your child’s and family’s needs
Step 3) Understand the logistics of the admissions process
Step 4) Prepare for the school tours as well as the interviews
Step 5) Complete the applications and write a compelling essay
Step 6) Select the best school for your child and family
To learn more about our workshops, individual consulting services or EduProfile, please click on the Our Services tab.