This guest post was written by Katie Miller. Admit NY is privileged to partner with Katie to offer expert advice on the New York City public admissions process. If you're interested in working with Katie, reach out to us!
The past few years have brought a great deal of uncertainty and stress into an already complex New York City public high school admissions process. Every year yields new changes - some good, some not so good. How do you keep your head above water, internalize the lessons from last year, and minimize stress? If your student is currently a 7th grader seeking to enter public high school next year, here are a few quick dos and don’ts to help you find your way to a positive outcome and a calmer fall.
DO make sure your 7th grader feels supported and confident in their academics this year. This is NOT the year to let them muddle through. If they are feeling uncertain or confused about a unit, have them ask for help, either at school or through a tutor. One lesson from last year is that grades in 7th grade matter, and in a very granular way (i.e., your child’s odds of getting into the most competitive screened schools went down dramatically if they had a 93 instead of a 95 or higher).
DO seriously consider preparing your child for the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). That process, while beastly in its own way, is at least predictable! January of 7th grade is a great time to start shoring up any math or ELA gaps, with a plan to start specific SHSAT content and strategy prep in the spring.
DO have conversations with your child about any arts interests and consider audition preparation. The arts schools in NYC are terrific, and whether you are interested in LaGuardia, or other general education arts schools, it is a great way to diversify your list of schools. The main arts areas across the schools are: dance, instrumental, voice, drama, visual arts, film, technical theater arts, and fashion.
DO not forget about the state tests! They did not matter last year (and never matter for private school students), but you never know when they will creep their way back into the admissions metrics for public schools.
DO start having conversations with your child about what excites them about high school. Sports? Arts? Writing? Robotics? And think about what is important to your family… Proximity? Academic rigor? Joy? Aim to have a starting, over-inclusive list by roughly the end of March.
DO pay attention to your child’s executive functioning skills. Are they struggling to organize their time? Complete work? Advocate for themselves? Keep a clear desk? If so, they are in good company! But now's the time to work with them to establish good habits. If that feels overwhelming, there are amazing executive functioning coaches that can offer support.
DO speak to your child’s teachers, and/or consider a neuropsychological exam, if you have concerns about your child’s progress or confidence in the classroom. If you think your child might benefit from two teachers in a classroom, extended time on exams or a distraction-free setting, or other social-emotional or academic supports, do not wait! These processes (obtaining an IEP or 504 plan) often take a long time, and it is important that your child go into 8th grade with the appropriate supports in place. That means everything should be done by end of 7th grade.
DO keep an open mind about what kinds of schools may be right for your child. If you want to ensure the strongest likelihood of a match, you MUST include less competitive schools on your list - many of which are wonderful institutions! Only a small few of the 700(!) academic programs in NYC are screened. There are some amazing schools that may be off your radar but would be perfect fits for your child.
DO have a family conversation about whether you would like to also explore independent or parochial schools. Many more families have been applying to these schools, in conjunction with the public school process, in order to cast the widest net possible. But these schools have their own required testing that may need preparation, and, of course, they cost money. Be intentional and realistic about your path forward.
And finally… DO believe that this will all be ok! All of the negativity surrounding admissions makes it easy to go into the process demoralized, but don’t be! With proper preparation, and a positive mindset, it is almost guaranteed that you will end up with an outcome that will educate, support, and motivate your child. Believe!
DON’T spend any energy looking at how schools admitted students last year. These processes have changed year to year, and will undoubtedly change again. Focus, for now, on fit for your child and family. Strategy and how to get in can be tackled in the fall.
DON’T worry about preparing for the supplemental asks by a few of the screened schools (e.g., Beacon, Bard, Nest+M, etc.). These requirements also change! Therefore, this is also a fall problem.
DON’T be afraid to ask for help! Whether that means talking to someone about the anxiety that is normal with this process, or asking someone like me for support in crafting a right fit school list for your child, it's ok to seek support. Admissions can be an unnecessarily stressful process, and there is no need to tough it out alone.
DON’T believe everything you read about schools. The data on schools changes yearly, and any published data is often outdated. Schools that are on the rise will have very different data in two years (when your child will be attending) that will not be reflected in current reports.
Similarly, DON’T believe everything you hear about schools! Parents with older siblings went through a very different process than you will go though, and schools they may have rejected outright may now be well within the “hidden gems” category.
And finally… DON’T forget that your children are amazing and resilient, and will be absolutely fine wherever they end up.