Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Grades / 11, 12, and 13 year olds

Key advice: Between 6th grade and 7th grade, parents and students should start preparing for high school admissions. It can take a year or more to research programs and identify the best ones for your child. Then you need to find out about their specific admissions methods and requirements. Starting early is the best way to be ready when applications are due in 8th grade.
Important Dates
2015
Late Spring: 7th graders receive copies of the High School Directory
Summer: Attend summer high school workshops, prepare for specialized high school (SHSAT) test if applying (8th / 9th graders)*
Early Fall: First day of school: September 9, 2015
Request SHSAT test or audition for specialized high schools if applying (8th /9th graders)*; contact charter high schools for applications and admissions information if applying
Ongoing Fall: Attend high school fairs, open houses, tours, events (be sure to sign in when required for admissions) at general, specialized and charter high school programs
Mid Fall: General high school applications distributed (8th /9th graders)*; SHSAT test administered
December: High school Applications due (8th / 9th graders)*

2016
Charter school enrollment period: Various deadlines
Early 2016: Screened school interviews, auditions, portfolios and other assessments due (8th / 9th graders)*
March: General process Round 1 notification letters sent out (8th / 9th graders)*; participate in General process Round 2 fairs and admissions
May General process Round 2 results and Appeals Round starts

School starts: September 2016 (exact date still undecided)

*First time 9th graders (including those who went through the high school admissions process in 8th grade but who would like to apply to a different school for 10th grade) are also eligible to participate in the NYC high schools admissions process. They may only apply to programs that offer 10th grade seats. This information is indicated in the High School Directory.

What’s important about 7th and 8th grades: preparing for high school
“Middle school” is the name given to the 6th, 7th and 8th grades. It is considered an important transition period that prepares students to move from elementary school to the greater responsibilities and challenges of high school.

During the 8th grade, all NYC public school children participate in the high school admissions process. However, information from a child’s middle school record is considered in the high school admissions process, such as their 7th grade attendance record, state standardized test grades and report cards. Some parents even pay for “test prep” (extra test preparation materials, courses, or tutors), thinking that this will help them either have better standardized test scores or perform more highly on the admissions tests for the specialized high schools. The Department of Education does not endorse this, and as of 2015, state standardized test scores cannot be used as the main criteria for school admissions or promotions to the next grade. However, test prep can have a positive impact on SHSAT scores. Some local community organizations offer free or low cost test prep, as do some middle schools—ask around to find the options available to you. Also, bookstores sell test prep booklets students can use to prepare on their own. Scoring high on the SHSAT is necessary to get a seat at one of the 11 specialized high schools, and familiarity with the test is one of the best ways to improve your score.

The high school enrollment process will be explained below.
How to enroll in public school (for students new to NYC, grades 6-8)
A child should be enrolled right away in his or her zoned district school. To find your zoned school you can visit a Family Welcome Center in person, call 311 or the Department of Education at 718-935-3500, or use the ‘School Search’ tool at the Department of Education website: NYC.GOV School Search

When speaking to someone either on the phone or in person, you can always ask for a translator if this would make the conversation easier.

If there is no space at your zoned school, your child will be placed on a waitlist and immediately assigned to a nearby school. If you live in one of the districts without a zoned school, you will be directed to the school closest to your home with available space. Going to a Family Welcome Center first is also a good idea if your child has received special education services previously and/or has an IEP from outside of New York City.

At your zoned/assigned school, you need the required documentation:
  • Child’s birth certificate or passport as proof of age
  • Immunization records
  • Latest report card/transcript (if available)
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP) and/or 504 Accommodation Plan (if applicable and available)
  • Required Proof of NYC Residence (any two of the following):
  • Utility bill (gas or electric) for the residence issued by National Grid (formerly Keyspan), Con Edison, or the Long Island Power Authority (for the Rockaways); must be dated within the past 60 days
  • Water bill for the residence; must be dated within the past 90 days
  • Original lease agreement, deed, or mortgage statement for the residence
  • Current property tax bill for the residence
  • Official payroll document from an employer (example: payroll receipt); must be dated within the past 60 days
  • Document or letter from a federal, state, or local government agency indicating the resident’s name and address (example: document from Internal Revenue Service (IRS), City Housing Authority, the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS)); must be dated within the past 60 days

If you do not have the required documentation, you should still go to enroll your child. They will be admitted to school provisionally while a solution is worked out (for example, if you are neither the leaseholder nor owner of your residence, you will be asked to submit a Residency Affidavit).

Remember that by law, students may not be required or asked to present documentation of immigration status nor can they be denied admission to school based on immigration status or failure to present documentation about immigration status. Also, references to the immigration status of a child or parent cannot appear on any school forms or records.


Charters schools have their own admissions processes. You need to contact these schools directly for more information on how to apply.
How to apply to high school (for all 8th grade and first time 9th grade students)
During the 8th grade, all NYC public school children participate in the general high school application process. Students attending schools that go beyond 8th grade can apply to stay at their current school, where they are usually given priority over new students.

Charter schools and specialized high schools listed in the High School Directory have their own admissions processes and do not participate in the general high school admissions process described here. You need to contact these schools directly for more information about how to apply. For more information on charter schools and specialized high schools, see below.

8th grade students not currently enrolled in a New York City public school (parochial and private school students) should receive information on public NYC high schools from their guidance counselors—ask if you do not.

Students with disabilities may apply to all schools and/or programs available to the general student population in their district. They will be subject to the same admissions requirements as their general education peers, although testing accommodations will be provided if the student’s IEP requires these. Students whose IEPs recommend a specialized District 75 program and who wish to continue in a District 75 program are not required to participate in the middle school admissions process: these students will be notified of their District 75 placement in May or June. For students considering a move from their District 75 program to a community school, the Department of Education recommends that they participate in the middle school admissions process. For more information, visit: NYC.GOV Special Education

High School Directories are generally available to students during their 7th grade year. Many students and their families use the summer before 8th grade to start researching their options, attending summer workshops to learn about the admissions process, and, if their child is interested in a specialized high school, to study for the specialized high school test.

High School Directories are also available at the DOE website

The general high school admissions process formally begins the in fall of 8th grade. Students and their parents should meet with their child’s guidance counselor to help them understand the options available to their child. The options are the high school programs your child is eligible to attend: your child will only be able to apply to programs for which they meet the eligibility criteria.

There are different types of high school programs located throughout NYC. Some schools put added emphasis on career training or skills, and some offer industry certification as well as diplomas. International schools specialize in serving students who are new to the US and meet certain language criteria. These schools not only offer instruction in academic subjects (including acquiring fluency in English), but they also support new arrivals as they learn to navigate new social and cultural situations. Like other schools they offer extra-curricular activities and prepare students for opportunities after high school. Consortium schools have their students complete performance assessments consisting of research, presentations, and defenses instead of taking Regents exams. Other schools offer more traditional approaches and courses of study. It is helpful to start early to understand all the options available and, importantly, how they match with a student’s learning style, aspirations, and other individual characteristics.

During September and October parents and students should attend district “High School Fairs” at which they can meet representatives from different schools. How should you identify a good fit for your child? There are many factors you and your student can consider: location, specialized programming or curriculum, educational approach or philosophy, class size, culture or atmosphere, test scores, student-teacher ratio, disciplinary or homework policies, facilities, performance record, extracurricular activities, AP/honors options, graduation rates, and diversity are only a few. Don’t forget that the High Schools Directory offers information that complements what you can learn during visits and interviews. For example, some schools have a good record of graduating students on time and their students go on to college, while other schools have a low graduation rate or college acceptance rate. These percentages are listed in the Directory. Other factors, such as school safety and its ‘feel’ for an individual child, cannot be understood or identified by reading the Directory alone. The Directory, visits, tours, open houses, and conversations with current and former students and staff are all an important part of your selection process.

Students and their families should directly contact any schools they are interested in to determine the schools’ admission priorities (the order by which applicants are considered for placement) and admissions methods (the ways in which applicants are admitted). Ideally they should attend the schools’ open houses (when the school is open to the public for visits and to answer questions) or sign up for tours. Visiting the school allows you to meet teachers and students, see the facilities (see the library, lunchroom and classrooms), question the principal, and gauge the overall atmosphere.

It’s important to note that some schools have selection criteria which give priority to students who attend an open house, tour, or High School Fair (in which case it is important to sign in at these events), and some schools’ admissions methods require writing samples, teacher recommendations, interviews or auditions. In addition to the admissions criteria, other factors can affect the likelihood of your child being accepted. The number of seats available may be smaller than the number of applications the school receives. How you rank these schools on the form can also impact the odds chances of being accepted. Each school’s admissions priorities, admissions methods, specific selection criteria, number of seats available, demand history, performance indicators, and other important statistics are listed in the High School Directory. If some aspect of the process is unduly burdensome or prohibitive to your family (for example, you cannot attend an open house because of work, distance, disability, or you are worried about language barriers), you should contact the school immediately and explore your options (work with your school guidance counselor to help you do this).

In December students submit completed applications to guidance counselors.

Early in the next year (January-March), where required, students will attend scheduled auditions or interviews and hand in materials necessary to complete their applications. Around March, Round 1 results are available, and a second round (Round 2) is conducted for students who either failed to be matched to a program or who were unhappy with their match. In May, Round 2 results are announced and appeals can be made. If a student is placed in a school, it can be very difficult to obtain a placement in a different school. For that reason, it is important to be as careful and thoughtful about the first round selection process as possible.

To apply to a High School program at a charter school: These schools operate separately from the Department of Education and develop their own academic programs of learning, but they must meet performance goals to remain open. They have a separate admissions process and priorities (e.g., priority for children in a charter school’s community school district). Some charter schools are highly sought after, feature innovative programming, and have high testing and graduation rates. Critics say that charter schools are sometimes of variable quality or use policies that manipulate measures of success.

The primary web source for charter school information is NYC Charter Schools

To apply to a charter school, you need to contact that school directly for information and for a paper application. You may be able to submit an application through their own website or through the NYC Charter School Center website (in English, Spanish and other languages): NYC Charter Schools

To apply to a high school program at a specialized high school: There are nine specialized High Schools in New York City that are designed to serve the needs of “academically and artistically gifted students,” according to the Department of Education. Eight of these schools base admissions solely on the score attained on the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT, which tests verbal and math ability). They are: the Bronx High School of Science, the Brooklyn Latin School, Brooklyn Technical High School, High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at the City College, High School of American Studies at Lehman College, Queens High School for the Sciences at York College, Staten Island Technical High School, and Stuyvesant High School. A ninth specialized High School, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, admits students based on an audition (in dance, drama, fine arts, instrumental music, technical theatre, or vocal music) and a review of academic records. Entry into these programs is highly competitive, and some students prepare for the SHSAT test for years before they start 8th grade. If your child is interested in these programs s/he should be encouraged to speak with their guidance counselor in September to register for the test/audition (parochial and private school students should go to the nearest Family Welcome Center). By early fall the guidance counselor will issue your child a test or audition “ticket” which indicates the location, the date, and time of the SHSAT test or audition later that fall.

The Specialized High School Handbook provides more detailed information as well as sample test material. It is available at: NYC.GOV Specialized High Schools
How to change from my current Middle Schools / find a school better suited to my child (for 6th and 7th grade)
Applying to a new school or program:
One option for your child is to apply to a non-zoned or “magnet” school that accepts applications from students throughout NYC. You can sometimes apply to district schools in other zones if they offer a program or services your current school lacks and if their policy permits the admission of students outside their zoned area (sometimes, students from outside the zone can be admitted if space permits, or be placed on a waiting list).

The most up-to-date information on schools and programs is available at the Department of Education website, which is periodically updated. You can search for schools by borough using the DOE search tool at NYC.GOV School Search and then go to individual school web pages for more information. You can also ask for guidance at a Family Welcome Center. You will need to contact your desired schools directly to find out their admissions policy regarding students outside their zone, if/when they have an open house or tours, and how to submit an application.

The (non-DOE) website “Inside Schools” offers a search tool that allows you to filter your search by program: Inside Schools.

Another option is to apply to a charter school. These schools operate separately from the Department of Education and develop their own unique academic programs of learning, but they must meet performance goals to remain open. They have a separate admissions process and priorities (e.g., priority for children in a charter school’s community school district). Some charter schools are highly sought after, feature innovative programming, and have high testing and graduation rates. Critics say that some charter schools are of variable quality or use policies that manipulate measures of success.

The primary web source for charter school information is NYC Charter Schools

To apply to a charter school, you need to contact that school directly for information and for a paper application. Your may be able to submit an application through their own website or through the NYC Charter School Center website (in English, Spanish and other languages): NYC Charter Schools

If you are interested in changing schools, early fall is a good time to review the individual school websites, contact the school, ask about open houses or tours, and learn their admission process.

Applying for a transfer due to hardship, safety concerns, or poor school performance:
Beyond transfer options which include re-applying to a new school or program, you can request a transfer to another public school if your child’s current assigned New York City public school presents one of the following documented hardships:
  • Distance from childcare or parent employment (students in K-5 only): if the distance between your child’s school and your place of employment or your childcare location creates a hardship. You must provide supporting documentation from your employer and/or childcare provider verifying the childcare hardship.
  • To attend the same school as a sibling (students in K-5 only): for a sibling to attend school where another sibling currently attends and will continue to attend in the following school year (siblings are brothers/sisters including stepbrothers, stepsisters, foster brothers, foster sisters who live in the same household as the applicant).
  • If your child has a severe medical issue that can be addressed by a change in school: You must provide documentation signed by a doctor on the medical provider’s letterhead stating the medical condition and the reason why the transfer is recommended.
  • If you feel that your child is unsafe at his or her current school: All safety transfer requests and supporting documentation must come from schools themselves. Families should not bring the documentation to the Family Welcome Centers. Schools must fax an occurrence report or other school documentation; a police report, docket number or court documentation, Safety Transfer Summary of Investigation form, or a Safety Transfer Intake form, as appropriate.
  • If your high school student’s commute is 75 minutes or greater, or otherwise inaccessible by public transportation.

Through the Public School Choice (PSC) program, students who attend an eligible lower-performing school can apply for transfer to a school with “In Good Standing” status as determined by the New York State Education Department (NYSED). Priority is given to students who are identified as low-performing and low income.
  • A list of schools whose students may be eligible to transfer via the PSC process is available here.
  • A list of information sessions on the PSC program is available at the DOE Public School Choice webpage (or click here for materials on the PSC program in Spanish).

Students enrolled at schools designated as “persistently dangerous” have the opportunity to request a transfer to a school that is not so designated. Schools are designated persistently dangerous if they have two successive years of serious incidents that meet or exceed criteria established by the NYSED. Eligible families will be mailed a notification letter in September.
Key facts
Is it mandatory: Yes

Is it free: Yes, programs offered by the NYC Department of Education (district schools and charter schools).

Are there special programs for academically advanced children: There are middle school programs oriented toward different levels of achievers, including high achievers.

Are there bilingual programs or programs for English language learners: Yes

Are there special programs or help for disabled students or other special needs: Yes
Important future dates to prepare for now
Early Fall/Fall 2016 – If you are interested in changing schools, this fall is a good time to review the individual school websites, contact the school, ask about open houses or tours, and learn their admission process. Admissions deadlines for the 2017-18 academic year can start as early as the first few months of 2017.

7th grade students should start planning for the High School admissions process while still in 7th grade, especially if they have access to the High School Directory for the coming school year. See above for more information on the High School admissions process.

Related topics that might help you.

Other Internet resources

New York City Department of Education middle school enrollment page.

Information on free afterschool and summer programs from the “Inside Schools” website (sponsored by the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School): Inside Schools Free Programs