"My advice is to make the high school or secondary school experience an end in itself - not a means to an end. What universities are really looking for are children who have learned, who have made the most of their opportunities, who have experienced something and really engaged with that experience."
School Admission Process
As parents begin the search to find the best school for their children in New York City (NYC), they will encounter varied institutions designed to meet different needs. After researching, visiting and understanding their academic options, parents will want to begin the school admission process for their kids. A school search should always take into account both the characteristics of a school and the personality, as well as the learning style, interests and overall needs of the child.
Parents who wish to enroll their children in nursery school or kindergarten in NYC, must follow a strict academic calendar to meet crucial admissions deadlines. While this process is different for private and public schools, each has its own guidelines. Private nursery school applications, in most cases, are distributed the day after Labor Day. Parents need to phone each school to obtain an application, and pre-schools only give out a certain number. Families who do not connect with the institution before the applications are all distributed do not have a chance to apply to the school, making the process extremely competitive. As some nursery schools do not conform to the standard process, parents should contact the schools they are interested in during August to make sure they are aware of the procedures in advance.
Most private Kindergartens, as well as private middle and high schools in NYC, accept applications between September and December. But it is not uncommon, if schools feel they have received too many applications by a prior date, to close admissions early. In these cases certain schools may not accept applications after November. It is important for parents to stay in touch with schools to ensure that their applications are in before cutoff dates so that their children are considered for admission.
In private NYC schools, acceptance letters are mailed in February or March depending on the grade level. Families have two weeks to notify the school whether or not they will accept the offer. The members of the Independent Schools Admissions Association of Greater New York (ISAAGNY) require parents to sign a contract with the school committing to send their child to that institution, even if he or she is accepted to another school off a wait list later in the season. Parents should be sure to read contracts in full before committing to one.
Parents applying to NYC public schools typically submit applications between January and March. In late March, families receive notification of school offers and pre-registration then begins between late-March and mid-April. Parents should be aware that students who live within the zones of specific schools will receive priority over those who do not. The public middle school admissions process in NYC is longer and more complex. In September, families receive school directories and testing request forms. In October, families have a chance to attend school-based open houses, with applications distributed one month later. In December, students complete the tests, while parents return their middle school applications. Between January and February, schools conduct interviews with students and testing continues at select institutions. Decision letters are sent out in May and families have the ability to appeal in June. When it comes to the public high school admissions process in NYC, students have more flexibility in picking their ideal institution. Applicants are allowed to rank up to 12 schools that they would like to attend, providing the institutions with a better sense of students' preferences. As there are more than 600 programs to choose from across the city, the NYC Department of Education hosts fairs and workshops to help families find the best school.
Parents interested in gifted programs and specialized public schools, particularly at the high school level, need to contact the schools or the Board of Education early in the academic year to be sure they are aware of deadlines and application processes, because they vary.
New schools - both in the public and private sectors, are opening up all the time. Parents who find the process confusing may find an independent education consultant helpful in identifying the right schools for their children and in navigating the complicated admissions process.