and we're off!

Welcome (and welcome back) to High School 411. As we get into the process I want to take time to mention a few things. Some of this you'll hear me repeat as time goes on - what might seem irrelevant now will be super important at other times. But info tucked away somewhere can help as you get further into this. 

Seventh grade is all about grades, test scores, and attendance. For some schools this is what student ranking is based on so it's not the time to take off for an extra week in the winter.  A quick word about opting out of state tests: more parents are choosing to do this but it means schools will have less to consider when ranking your child. 

It's not too early to be thinking about the SHSAT (specialized high school admissions test. Some programs start in the spring of seventh grade and then continue in the fall of eighth. It's also not too early to glance at the high school directory, to get a sense of what's out there and places that might be good fits. 

As you start down this path I STRONGLY advise you and your child not to get too attached to any one school. While this is a "choice" system, it's not really. You choose how you rank your schools but you never can be sure where your offer will come from. Better to find several places your family feels comfortable with as options. 

Every high school handles things differently. From where to find info on websites, to how tours are set up, how to sign up, what they're like, what (if anything) they ask for beyond transcripts - there is zero standardization. Middle schools often don't supply info or much support. The DOE is working to get more info out to families but their event database, which they launched last year, was incomplete and had incorrect info. The high school directory had some errors. I even heard teachers and administrators giving incorrect info to families at the citywide high school fair. 

Whew. 

I'll be sharing from my own experiences having gone through the process with 2 kids, plus the hundreds of families I've worked with. I'll be updating you with time sensitive tour/open house/testing info as well as giving  helpful hints and tips about how to best get through the process. 

Each year is remarkable similar and yet things change. Tour sign ups have been getting earlier - often starting over the summer. Bard has started offering more open house but they, and Clinton this year, have been interviewing/testing well into January even though applications were due last December. 

I encourage everyone on this list to share info that you might come across. Last year Millenium Manhattan added extra tour dates but didn't announce them. A parent on their PTA let me know. The year before Beacon changed an open house date, again with no notice. A double checking dad noticed which helped hundreds not show up on the same day. Brooklyn Tech ditched morning tours. Stuyvesant forgot to post one of their open houses. It’s an imperfect system but the more eyes on top of things, the more well informed you’ll be. 

Emails I send out will be posted on my blog on the HS411 website so you have a back up way of tracking info. Once tours/open houses start happening, those will be posting the Important Dates section, but you absolutely should be noting them in your own calendar somewhere. 

And please share HS411 with people you know who might be interested. As I said in my very first group (and much to the embarrassment of my middle school son), “we’re all in this together.” Words of wisdom from High School Musical.