inside scoops about the High School Fair

I wrote the info towards the bottom after I attended the fair last year and thought it might help as you stare down this weekend. Along with info below I’ll add:

The DOE is now subtly asking families to sign up (I’ve only seen this posted on the DOE HS events page)

Most schools will have you sign in. The only time that matters is if it’s for a limited unscreened school. And even then, I discovered last year, not all actually pay attention to signatures they collect at the fair. Outrageous, but true. 

GOING IN WITH A PLAN HELPS! My first time I wandered somewhat aimlessly and while I discovered a couple of interesting schools, I walked out with a massive headache and seriously stressed. Second time I had 6 schools I wanted to talk to and the whole experience was much more manageable. 

If you’re going to an open house or tour, you don’t need to spend a lot of time talking at the fair. The specialized schools are always in Brooklyn Tech gym and people can wait for hours to get in. Don’t bother if you’ve got those open houses on your calendar. 

NOT ALL SCHOOLS SHOW UP. And that’s a bummer. They give out a list of who’s there, but even that’s not always accurate. 

Some schools leave early. 

Some schools choose to do the borough fair, rather than citywide. No way of knowing these things in advance. 

If you’ve got specific questions about your kid, this can be a good place to ask. Often principals and admin are there and it’s easier to have one on one time than on a tour. 

Bring water. Bring snacks. Wear comfortable shoes. There’s no air conditioning in the hallways.

Junior’s is a great restaurant to decompress at and their cheesecake really is delicious. 

and this, from last year:

There are two family entrances: one on Fort Greene Place and one on South Elliot - both in the middle of the block. I got there soon after 10 and both lines looked endless. But as I walked by after leaving the area at 2, there were no lines outside whatsoever. In the middle section of the school there were tables with handouts and high school directories. 

It’s not just high schools with set ups and representatives. I saw the fire and police departments, special ed services, charter schools, translation services, the Citywide Council on High Schools, Inside Schools (they had people roaming on every floor), and more. 

It’s sort of like a trade show at the Javits Center. There were cheerleaders, football players, people giving away pens, pamphlets, ID card cords (I have no idea what those are called). I saw one career and technical school doing hair demos.

The set up: floors 2 and 3 are Manhattan Schools, 4 Bronx, 5 and 6 Queens, 7 is Brooklyn. There are elevators but the lines were long. So are the trips up the stairs (I have renewed admiration for both my kids who climb them on a daily basis). I started on 7 and worked my way down -  everything up there is cafeteria so it was crowded but you could move. The lower floors were often impassable and security guards were trying to get people moving by shouting into megaphones. It got intense. 

I met such well spoken, knowledgable, impressive kids from just about every school I talked to. They alone might make the trip worthwhile. I always asked what their favorite thing was about the school and was impressed with the variety of answers. Data you can get from a book, but hearing kids talk about their community is something else entirely. It was great to talk to principals and teachers in more of a one on one setting than you might get at a school specific open house. 

All the specialized high schools were grouped together in the gym. The line to get in stretched the entire length of the school. That was ridiculous. 

Along with all the schools (not everyone showed up and there were empty tables lining some hallways) there were two presentations in the auditorium - one an introduction to the process (I don’t think you guys don’t need that) and a separate one about art schools and programs.

You have to take what you hear with a grain of salt: I also also overheard straight up misinformation like a coach telling a kid that if he ranked the school one or two, he’d guarantee he’d get in. That’s not possible. I heard several other families told that of course schools see how you rank and that you should put them at the top of your list if you wanted to get in. That’s not true either. High schools don’t see how you rank them on your application. They do in middle school but not in high school. 

And, when talking to schools, it’s smart to take materials, and then go home and do more research. I was blown away by the enthusiasm and info from one school to later find their college percentages were much lower than they alluded to. 

But, I talked to people at schools I’d not heard of before. There’s something to be said for having an opportunity to move past the lists many parents have in mind when they start this process and find there are other places that might be good fits.