High School Admissions in NYC

Featuring Advice from Actual Applicants!


The high school application process in New York City can be overwhelming, stressful, competitive and confusing for students and their families! But, have no fear, we’re here to help! The following are some tips to help your family through the process, guided by advice from eighth graders who have survived the process themselves and wanted to help others. Ready? Let’s get started!


  1. Start early and ask for help!

Being a successful applicant means starting to prepare for the application process early and feeling comfortable asking for help and support along the way. Many students find it helps to start thinking about how to optimize their application as much as possible in seventh grade. Asking your parents or other supporters to help you think about what kinds of schools you are interested in or how to strengthen your application can be valuable as you start to think about the which actions to take first. Also, speaking to older students about their application process can assist in understanding what to expect at each step. Approaching the application process as a family can be a helpful way to feel supported, encouraged and comforted along the application journey.


  1. Keep an open mind and consider your personal priorities!

When you’re trying to decide which high schools to pick, it can feel like everyone in your life has an opinion about where you “should” go and what you “should” do to get accepted. The truth is, every student has their own unique needs and priorities! It is so important to take time and space to think about what YOU need as a student. It can also be very helpful to do your research to make sure you and your parents are fully informed about what the options are, as well as the unique features of each school. Some helpful questions to prioritize your goals are:

-What are your learning needs?

-Would you prefer a bigger or smaller school?

-Do you benefit from more traditional structure or more flexibility?

-Are there certain subjects or extra-curricular activities that are important to you?

-Are there certain neighborhoods that you would prioritize over others? How will you travel to and from school?

-Have you listed a variety of schools? Have you been realistic about your qualifications and if they are aligned with the requirements for the schools you applied for?

-What are the requirements for each individual application?

-What is your plan for meeting all of the requirements before the deadline?

-What do you need to feel productive and successful?


  1. Find balance in your life throughout the process!

Everyone needs some time to rest, relax and have fun! It is crucial to carve out time for activities that are enjoyable and give your brain a break from thinking about the application process. No one is their best self when they are stressed, anxious and upset! Some helpful ideas for relaxation and fun are:

-Physical activity such as organized sports, dance, yoga, walking or hiking, swimming

-Spending time outside

-Enjoying time with friends and family

-When you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed, find a safe adult that you can talk to about how you are feeling and what is bothering you most. It is really important to talk through your feelings, instead of keeping them all bottled up inside. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

-Finding means of creative expression such as listening to music, painting, drawing, writing, blogging, taking or editing photos or videos, acting, collaging, cooking/baking

-Giving yourself permission to take a break by watching a show or move that you enjoy

-Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and eating well-balanced meals

-Practice taking deep breaths and using positive self-talk when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed (“I can do this” “I am a capable, smart person” “I am doing the best I can” “I am going to end up at the school that is right for me” “Everything is going to be okay”)

Try using meditation/relaxation apps for guided meditations (Stop, Breathe & Think and Calm are both excellent)

  1. Slow and steady wins the race!

The application process is long and arduous–pace yourself! Make sure to give yourself enough time to gather any necessary materials, study for tests and write any essays—don’t leave anything for the last minute! Even professional writers often write multiple drafts of their work. Returning to drafts after several hours or days can help you to edit with a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective. Also, writing essays in advance can create opportunity for others to edit them, if that feels helpful. Giving yourself time to go on high school visits and research schools can help to clarify your rankings. Talk about your priorities with you parents and other supports along the way—talking through your thought process can help to clarify how you are feeling and what is most important. Setting monthly, weekly and daily goals for yourself can help you to feel organized and on track when meeting deadlines. Using a calendar to organize tasks as the deadline approaches can also be very helpful.


  1. Explore your resources and take advantage of them!

You are not alone in this process! Remember that your friends are going through the same thing as you are. While it’s not always helpful to compare yourself to others, it can be helpful to process your experience with others who understand firsthand. School counselors, social workers and teachers can also be helpful in answering questions and guiding you through the application journey. Remember, they help students every year, so this isn’t their first rodeo! There are many resources to help prepare you for testing and to guide you in writing your essays. There are resources online and your family may be able to help you find tutors and test prep courses! Taking timed practice tests in the months leading up to the real thing can help you to get used to the structure and timing for the actual test day!

Remember, while this process is incredibly stressful, it will not last forever and you will be off to high school before you know it! So, take deep breaths, practice positive self-talk, make time for relaxation and fun and know that you are doing the best you can!

Thank you to the brave applicants who shared their experience and wisdom to help make this blog post as helpful as possible to others! Contact us for more assistance.