I didn’t really know what to expect at tonight’s first high school admissions information session of the summer given by the Department of Education. I had given this presentation myself dozens of times during my tenure at the DOE, so I was actually excited to sit back amongst the crowd and just listen. What has changed? What new information could I share with the families I help?


It was fascinating to watch the auditorium fill up with hundreds of eager families.  To their credit, many brought their middle school children along with them (my unofficial estimate is that there were well over 100 students in the room). Emotions seemed to range from preoccupied to anxious to overwhelmed. One parent sitting across the aisle from me commented that his wife made him attend. Another woman next to me commented on how the college process is “easy” compared to this.


As usual, the DOE did an impressive job producing the event and presenting the material in a very short amount of time (60 minutes, plus Q&A – not an easy feat). In fact, they rolled out a sleek, new visual presentation, along with a useful, interactive quiz. All good stuff.


But about 30 minutes into the presentation, something occurred to me. Despite the fact that I can tell you there is essentially nothing new with the process this year (other than no more ‘top 2% guarantee’ to Ed Opt programs – don’t worry, you don’t need to know), that won’t help current middle school families very much. As one DOE presenter so aptly put it, “You won’t leave here tonight understanding all of this – but it will raise a lot of questions for you.”


That’s not to say that attending these sessions is a waste of time. On the contrary. I always cringe when more engaged and informed families choose to skip these sessions because they “already know the process.” I lived and breathed high school admissions every day for 5 years at the DOE, and I was still learning new things every day.


As most families will tell you after they’ve been through the process (and I would bet families who went to tonight’s event), the more you learn, the more you will realize you don’t know. The amount of information, concepts, tips, and strategies shared at tonight’s session in just 60 minutes was overwhelming, and that is no commentary on the presenters. That is a commentary on the nature of the process.


But don’t take it from me – simply check out the numerous studies that have been conducted by independent, 3rd party researchers over the past several years (you can check out some on my website).


So my message for today is twofold: If you truly want to maximize your chances for a successful result, take action and get help.  Now.


Take action. Attend these events while you can (unfortunately, according to the DOE, the only fall high school info sessions will be at the citywide fair on September 20 and 21), and learn as much as you can. You will always pick something up. But know that you will NOT become an expert, master the process and learn everything you need to know yourself to maximize your chances for a successful result.


Get help. Whether it’s your school counselor, the DOE, trusted friends, or a consultant like me (have you seen our new, free download with tips for middle school students?), just don’t do it alone. You need a team to help guide and support you through this, just like other major passages in life that require teamwork.


And for goodness sake, 6th and 7th grade families, don’t wait until next summer’s sessions to start your own preparation.   All you have to do is speak with someone who attended tonight’s event, and they will tell you the same thing. As I always say, would you wait until the summer before 12th grade to start the college admissions process?


P.S. Want more sessions in the fall to help you with high school admissions?  Stay tuned for our own high school admissions sessions!   LIKE us on Facebook to stay updated with details…