This week I was part of a high school task force meeting run by borough president Gale Brewer's office. Their first goal is to educate both guidance departments and families about options other than Beacon, Bard and the "name brand" schools so/too many people gravitate towards. The challenge is that very often, the reputations of these schools takes over and they are flooded with too many applicants that they just don't have room for.
My son was one of the many who caught the Beacon bug - it hadn't been his first choice but after his interview he changed his mind and ranked it first, as did close to 60 kids at Lab. It wasn't a particularly good fit for him and he didn't get in, nor did more than 50 of those students. He, and many others, made choices and decisions based on reputation and what their peers were doing.
Last night I ran into a friend of his from middle school, who's now a sophomore at Beacon, and we talked about her experience there.
Quick note: many, many people will have opinions about schools - I suggest taking them with a grain of salt unless they have personal experience there.
Her take: the workload depended on teachers. Since they don't give regents, teachers aren't bound to a set curriculum and many teach what they enjoy teaching most. It can be great or frustrating if you don't like a particular topic. She said there's not a lot structure - teachers give you an assignment, expecting you to run with it and that that's hard for some kids. She said she feels like it'll prepare her well for college but she often misses the structure of middle school.
Info like that is great to take into consideration when looking and then ranking. When you're on tours or open houses, if you get a chance, ask kids what they like/don't like about the school. What homework is like, interacting with teachers, time management. That kind of intel will help you make a better informed choice for your child. Not every schools will be the right fit, no matter what the collective hive says.