Early adolescence is a time of remarkable physical, mental and social growth. Children begin to distance themselves from adults and turn to their peers to learn about the world. Middle schools need to provide a strong sense of community with an academic setting that accommodates the unique learning styles of 11 to 14 year old children. This section will help you learn about the different types of middle schools in New York City as well as help you navigate the public and private middle school admissions process.
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If the middle school to which your family is zoned is satisfactory, you are lucky and do not have to become involved in the middle school admissions process. Unfortunately, many New York City parents either do not have a zoned middle school or live in an area in which the school is unsatisfactory. If you fall into the latter group, you will need to start thinking about the private and public middle school admissions process during the summer after your child completes 4th grade or the fall semester of 5th grade, because most of New York City’s middle schools begin in the 6th grade. This section helps you:
- Understand the educational profile of your child who is entering the most academically and emotionally challenging time of her or his life
- Select a type of school that meets your child's and family's needs
- Navigate the private and public middle school admissions process
The application process for public middle schools varies by school. Private schools and public selective schools assess students on the basis of one or more of the following items:
- Writing sample
- Recommendations from a former elementary school teachers
- Student and parent interviews
- Elementary school transcripts
- Entrance exams
Middle School Entrance Exams
Unlike selective public elementary and high schools, there is not a standard entrance exam for 5th graders to take that is required by all of the City’s public selective middle school programs. Some selective schools have developed their own entrance exam, while others do not have an exam but do have minimum requirements in terms of scores on standardized tests taken in elementary school. Other selective schools will require some combination of an application, an interview, essays, or auditions (for those students with artistic or musical talents). Moreover, some zoned neighborhood schools have "special progress" programs for high-achieving students (generally, top 15 percent on the standardized tests taken in elementary school).
Most private day middle schools require applicants to submit their scores from the three hour Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) administered by the Education Records Bureau (ERB). There is a lower level test for 6th graders, and a middle level test for 7th and 8th graders. The Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT) is primarily used by boarding schools.
Please click on the following link to learn more about the ISSE and SSAT Exams.
More Information about the Admissions Process
To obtain more detailed information about applying to private middle schools, please click on the Private Middle 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 Registration 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 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 here to learn more about these aspects of your child's educational profile for middle school.
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 the following link to learn more about your family's educational goals and practical concerns regarding middle schools.
Once you have a clear understanding of your academic goals as well as your child’s educational 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: which type of program
- For private schools: prestigious or lesser known schools
- Educational philosophy of school
- Distance from home
- Large versus small schools
- Dual language programs
- Charter schools
- School structure
- School culture
- Coeducational versus single sex schools
- Feeder schools
Please click on the following link to learn more detailed information regarding middle school characteristics.
School Finder and Comparison Tool
To help parents navigate the middle 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., educational philosophy, cost, test scores, attendance rates). To learn more about these services, please click on the School Finder Tab above.
Moreover, the website has handouts that help parents prepare for the child and parent interviews, the entrance exams as well as the school tours that includes a survey to help parents keep track of the strengths and weaknesses of each school they visit.
Please click on the following links to download the handouts:
- Middle school tour handout
- Writing a compelling essay for the application
- Reference letter handout
- Admissions officers' pet peeves
- Admissions decisions handout
- Financial aid and scholarships handout
We also provide more personal services to help parents navigate the middle school admissions process, including eduprofile, workshops and individual consulting. 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, classroom behavior management approach and school community) as well as any practical considerations that are important, including the school’s type, location, educational approach, schedule, transportation, 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 the following 2-hour middle school workshops:
- Navigating the New York City middle school admissions process
- Preparing children for the entrance exams
The middle school admissions process workshop provides parents with tips regarding 1) how to identify the middle schools that meet your family’s needs, 2) the logistics of the admissions process, 3) touring schools, 4) parent interviews, 5) preparing your child for interviews, 6) writing a compelling essay, and 7) juggling acceptances and wait-list offers.
The second workshop, preparing students for the middle school entrance exams, explains the rationale behind the admissions tests required by many middle schools. Parents will also learn how to prepare your child to be 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 middle 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 middle 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 parent and student interviews
Step 5) Complete the applications and write a compelling essay
Step 6) Select the best school for your child and family