And then it hits you. You take a breath. Okay, you’ve heard about a few of the best schools that your child “just HAS to apply to.” But you know almost nothing about them, not to mention where they are. And are they the best for my child?  What do you need to do?  When do you need to do it? And how on earth can you do it all before you’re supposed to turn in the application in December – in do it in full agreement with your child?? Yeah, right. School visits, tours, open houses, fairs, interviews, auditions, writing samples…your head spins. You think, “Now I know why they say this is harder than applying to college.”


Believe it or not, you are not alone. Thousands and thousands of 8th grade families in New York City are now facing the same dilemma at this time of year.  Just know that they may not admit it to you or your child. But it’s not too late to get organized and make a plan. Here are 3 simple first steps to take as you embark on the crazy world of NYC high school admissions.


  1. Take stock. By that I mean first things first – make sure you have the right publications, including the big High School Directory published by the Department of Education. You can get that from your counselor or at any borough enrollment office (go to the DOE website for a list of offices at  If you have researched any schools, spoken to anyone who gave you advice, or met with your counselor, write down what you already know and any thoughts you have.  Start a file to keep your notes.  And finally, start to write down – and ask your child to write down – what you are looking for in a school, what you like, don’t like, your child’s talents and interests (tell them to brag!), and how far they are willing to travel (yes, your child will actually have to travel to the schools before they submit their application).  Don’t eliminate any schools yet.  Keep on open mind and understand that each child is unique and will have a “best fit.”
  2. Connect. Don’t do it alone. High school admissions is a team sport, and you can win at this game if you have a strong team surrounding you. This can include your guidance counselor, any trusted friends, your school parent coordinator, teachers, free resources like, and yes, your child. Oh, and don’t forget the Department of Education is your friend and wants you to win, despite what you may have heard.  Attend their events and subscribe to their updates. And for goodness sake, schedule an appointment with your school counselor and child in September. Don’t wait.
  3. Plan. As I mentioned in Step 1, start to organize and plan. There are too many things to keep track of all in your head. Keep a calendar that works for you and your child that you can both look at any time. Splurge on some file folders, whatever works for you.  Invent your own way of keeping track of certain schools in the HS Directory. But don’t let your organization, or lack thereof, get in the way of doing what it takes to make educated, informed choices.


No, this won’t cover everything, but it’s a start. Remember, simple steps taken each day will lead to success.


And if you have a question, we’d like to hear from you at