Public Schools

New York City Public Middle Schools

Middle School typically refers to grades 6-8, though some noteworthy unzoned schools begin in grades 5 (Center School) or 7 (Hunter College High School, Young Women's Leadership School). Typically, the search for a NYC public middle school begins in the fall of the 5th grade year.

Application Process

Most Manhattan districts are not zoned for specific middle schools, and all boroughs have some middle schools for which anyone can apply. This is a process known as middle school choice, and it is important to follow the appropriate application procedures to ensure optimum placement. Again, since most districts do not consist of automatically zoned middle schools within the district area, an application and ranking form must be filled out in order to be placed in a middle school. Even for those districts with zoned middle schools (such as District 6), you are not required to attend the zoned school and will likely wish to explore other options available to you in order to maximize quality placement opportunities.


Choices can vary widely, though most middle schools in Manhattan are restricted to those students who live within the district. The following District 3 middle schools only accept students who reside in District 3:

The following unzoned schools accept students from all five boroughs and have school-based application procedures: 

The Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science, and Engineering accepts students from Districts 3, 4, 5, and 6 who reside above 96th Street.

To learn more about quality middle school programs in each district and throughout the city, as well as specific admission and eligibility requirements including testing and interviews, visit the individual school websites, New York City Department of Education, Inside Schools, and pick up the reference book "New York City's Best Public Middle Schools" by Clara Hemphill (available in local NYC bookstores or order online). 


Timeline for Middle School Application Process


September-December (year prior to fall entry)

  • Explore middle school options and eligibility.


  • Register for middle school tours/open houses. To find tour/open house schedules, call the individual schools of interest, visit their websites, ask for information at your child's elementary school, or visit Inside Schools for a listing of schedules.
  • Obtain a middle school application form, directory, and application for testing for selective schools from public elementary schools or district enrollment offices.
  • Middle School application forms are due in early February to elementary school counselors or district enrollment offices.


  • Middle school placement notification.


If you move to New York City during the school year or summer and need to find a middle school:

  • Applications cannot be accepted for submission until official NYC residence has been established. If this has been obtained during the school year but your child is still attending school in another area, eligibility cannot be established until the summer (residence cannot be in two places for NYC public school consideration).
  • Identify schools that interest you. "New York City's Best Public Middle Schools" by Clara Hemphill (available in local NYC bookstores or order online) is a helpful resource for learning more about good schools.
  • Contact the schools to try to find out your chances of acceptances. They might be willing to meet with you outside of the official process, though enrollment is handled only through the central offices.
  • Take a list of the schools you are interested in to your local Family Welcome Center.  That way they will be less likely to place you in just any school -- although there are no guarantees. If you move to New York after the end of the school year, you will probably have to wait until late August, when enrollment reopens to register students new to the city or new to public school.