The school year is winding down, and if you are a rising 8th grade family (now finishing up 7th grade) in NYC, you are probably thinking about next fall and the dreaded high school admissions process. Some of you have accomplished a lot so far, whereas others haven’t even started the process.
Whatever group you fall into, the last thing you want to do is spend the entire summer anxious about the process, wondering what you could or should be doing, and what the most productive activities are if you decide to dedicate any time to it. At the same time, you also don’t want to squander the entire summer, knowing that the fall will be that much more overwhelming if you decide to do nothing this summer.
Not to worry. Here are my Top 10 Quick Tips for enjoying the summer while focusing on the most productive activities that can best position you for the hectic fall season:
1. Get the new public high school publications from your school, or from one of the July DOE events held throughout the city (worth considering, by the way – especially the session on specialized high schools!). This includes the public high school directory and the specialized high schools handbook, which will include many key dates already announced. For independent schools, the independent school directory from ISAAGNY, along with the Parents League, are helpful resources, as is tachsinfo.com for parochial schools.
2. If you have not already, set up a calendar that will be kept visible in your home, and start to fill in key dates now. Many key dates have already been announced, such as the SHSAT dates (specialized HS exam), high school fairs, application deadline, etc.
3. Get organized if you have not already. This means setting up the calendar, creating a fresh notebook for notes, research, questions, etc., considering folders for each school you are considering, having your list of helpful resources and websites, creating a space in your home, etc. What’s most important is that your system works for you and your child.
4. Armed with your new organizational tools and resources, commit to a summer schedule that you and your child are comfortable with. This could be anywhere from dedicating 1 hour a week to a few hours a week. Whatever the commitment is, put it in your calendar and protect that time. Remember, it’s about consistency, not putting in hours and hours every week. No need to ruin your summer vacation, camp, or other plans.
5. School research can be valuable during the summer, even if you can’t visit schools. Remember, it’s about fit (check out my blog on choice vs. strategy). School websites, InsideSchools.org, the HS directory, school search websites like Noodle.com, speaking with friends, etc., can all be helpful. Consider developing your written list of schools (see below), attending DOE events in July, visiting school neighborhoods when convenient, and…
6. Get to know each school program’s selection criteria. That means, what are their application requirements? Will they consider an interview or writing sample, or do they simply look at grades and test scores? What kind of grades and standardized test scores are they typically looking for? Should you be developing a portfolio or preparing for an audition? For the public schools, the high school directory and individual school websites will be among your top resources for this information. For independent and parochial schools, much of this information is on their websites.
7. Consider what test prep and/or tutoring options are best for your child, if any. This may include (more?) preparation for the SHSAT (specialized high school exam), ISEE/SSAT (independent schools), and/or TACHS (parochial), depending on your focus. You can even register for the TACHS exam in August via tachsinfo.com.
8. If you don’t already have a preliminary list of schools, now is the time to start getting it down on paper. And if you do, now is the time to continue building it to the optimal size and categorizing the list for the fall. (Subscribe to my newsletter or contact me to learn more about this!)
9. Check tachsinfo.com in August for fall open house dates and fair information, and fill in your calendar with these key dates. Towards the end of August, and especially in September, more and more independent and public schools will begin posting open house information on their websites. Independent schools will begin to release application forms, and the DOE will undoubtedly post many fall events on their website calendar, as well. Independent schools that use Ravenna may even allow registration now.
10. Finally, want to really make your guidance counselor really happy? Be ready to show up in September armed with a written list of schools that is:
a. Robust. It’s not time to eliminate as many schools as possible or present a final list yet! The more you are willing to consider, the better
b. Represents variety, different types of programs, levels of selectivity, and higher admissions priority groups
c. Includes programs where you can meet the required selection criteria, and you are familiar with those criteria
d. Includes schools that are within reasonable commuting distance
e. Shows that you have a genuine interest in your choices and have done your homework
You should have separate lists for public schools, public specialized high schools, and any other types of schools you are considering (debating public vs. private? See my recent article on Noodle.com here!). And if your list of public schools is already fewer than 12, I challenge you to build it up to 15 or more over the summer!
(Bonus: Want to really up your game? Consider one of my summer intensive workshops for students on writing samples and interviewing for selective high school admissions. Contact me for more details!)
While this may seem like a lot to handle, it can be accomplished if you dedicate a mere 1-2 hours per week – without ruining your summer.
If you want further details or to learn about how I can help you save time, aggravation, and improve your chances for a desirable high school result, contact me today to schedule a complimentary, 15-minute phone consultation!
Have a great summer!