NYC high schools are separated into 2 groups: main round and specializedMake sure you check out links just mentioned - you'll find important info about both types of schools. Check the chart below for an explanation of all admissions methods and criteria. 

Important to remember: main round is MANDATORY. Specialized schools are OPTIONAL.


March: Spring tour sign ups start

SPRING: some schools host tours/open houses

June: High school handbooks distributed

July: NYC DOE High admission workshops

August: tours/open houses sign ups start

September: borough wide high school fairs

Sept/Oct/Nov: tours/open houses take place

Oct/Nov: SHSAT, LaGuardia auditions

Oct/Nov/Dec (sometimes into January): auditions, screened school testing, interviews,
supplemental applications, essays, portfolios

December: application due

main round offer letters sent home
letters are due back 2 weeks later

March: Round 2 takes place, for students who didn’t get a main round match

March: Spring tour sign ups start (we’ve come full circle)

April: appeal process starts


Main round schools use several different admissions methods and can consider GPAs, transcripts, ELA and math scores and absence and latenesses. Most do not want letters of recommendation. Some do have additional testing, interviews, or submission of work. 

Admissions for specialized schools are completely different than main round.

LaGuardia, part of the specialized group, is the only one that is audition based (portfolio too for art discipline). They also take into account transcripts, test scores, absences and latenesses. 

Admissions for the other specialized schools (Bronx Science, Brooklyn Latin, Brooklyn Tech, HS for Math, Science and Engineering, Lehman, Queens HS for the Sciences, Staten Island Tech and Stuyvesant) is based on one test only. GPAs, recommendations, transcripts, absence and latenesses don't matter.  The SHSAT - specialized high school admissions test, which is held in October of 8th grade, is comprised of verbal and math questions. Cut off scores vary every year there is no finite number which guarantees admittance to any particular school. Students can take the test again in their sophomore year and transfer. 

The SHSAT changed in 2017. It now consists of 114 questions: half math, half ELA • editing section and show your math • there is no fixed cut off score per school • cut off scores are NOT revealed by the DOE • you are offered a seat based on your ranking and score •  20 questions are field questions and don’t count towards final score.

Main round and specialized lists are different and are submitted at different times. Rankings for main round schools are submitted to in December. Rankings for specialized schools are done, by students, at the specialized tests. That came as a surprise to many parents. So, kids can possibly get into 3 schools: LaGuardia, a main round, and a specialized. In February students get one nondescript letter listing schools they've been accepted at. After acceptance letters are sent out many school host open houses for kids they've made offers to, to help them in their final selection process.

Touring for all schools happens beginning in the spring and throughout the fall so it's important to remember all schools are not the same. If you love Bard and Bronx Science, great - they go on separate lists. Same for Nest and Tech. But, if you like Beacon and Baruch those are both main round and will be on the same list. 

Students can apply to any school in all 5 boroughs. There are over 400. There is also no zoned or safety school in Manhattan. Generally guidance counselors meet with parents in the spring to give an overview of how things work and to also give out copies of high school handbooks. These list every single school in the city along with info about graduation rates, extra curricular activities etc. You can also find the information online:

CLICK HERE for this year's main round high school directory.

and CLICK HERE for this year's specialized high school handbook.

And even though there are over 400 schools in the city, you won't be going on quite that many tours. In fact, it feels like many have basically the same list of schools to check out, just ranking them in different orders. 

Try to go into this process with as few preconceived ideas as you can. Having now gone through this process twice, I've learned that not only could you have very different reactions than what you thought you would, it can vary widely depending on the child you're with. And,  you'll find families also have drastically different reactions to the same places. A word of advice: take advice from parents who don't have a kid at a certain school with a grain of salt. And even when you know someone whose kid is at a school, their experience won't be the same as others. 

The principal of Eleanor Roosevelt gave the best advice I'd heard during the touring process. In the end, he said, listen to your kid. They're the one who'll be going to that school for 4 years, doing the commute, sitting in the classrooms, participating in after school programs. No matter how much you may think a school is the right, or wrong place for them, they need feel comfortable with where they're going. 

*The DOE launched MySchools.nyc, an online system for families to sign up for the SHSAT, LaGuardia auditions, and to admit main round applications in September 2018.