High School Information

Information on schooling options available for students from grades 9 to 12. Click on the links below to learn more about: 

Graduation Cap
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Public Schools

New York City is home to the largest public school system in the country. Public schools are tuition-free and are funded at the local, state, and federal levels. 

Any child who is a NYC resident is entitled to receive a free K-12 education.  Only those with NYC residency may apply for or enroll in NYC public schools.  If you plan to move to NYC, note that registration cannot take place until residency has been established and NYC public schools will not hold spots.  

The New York City Department of Education operates public schools in the city with leadership from the Mayor and a schools Chancellor. 

  • Ages/grade-level served.  
  • Educational philosophy and curriculum
  • Location
  • School building facilities and resources that support academics and extra-curricular activities
  • Size (individual class size and school as a whole) and teacher-to-student ratio

Applying to high school involves a yearlong process beginning at the end of Grade 7. Everyone must apply to high school.   

  • The Admissions process for public schools is described on the NYC DOE website.
    • Admissions processes and factors in acceptance to schools varies:
      • Screened schools – students with high grades and good attendance records
      • Specialized schools – See below
      • Zoned Schools – students who live in the specific attendance zone
      • Schools by lottery
      • Some schools require auditions/interviews/portfolios

Admissions Timeline

  • June–August: attend admissions workshops, prepare for specialized high school exam if applicable, plan fall schedule for fairs, open houses, auditions and school visits.
  • September-October: if applicable register for specialized high school exam or audition for LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, attend open houses, go on school visits, attend citywide high school fair.
  • October-November: attend borough high school fairs, take the specialized high school exam if applicable, continue to attend open houses and school visits.
  • December: submit high school application to your Grade 8 guidance counselor.
  • February–March: learn where you have been admitted, apply in the second round if you were not matched in the first one.
  • Late spring: appeal if you are unsatisfied with your placement.

Specific Admissions Process

Some schools require an audition in order to apply including:   

Some schools are designated as “magnet schools” and receive federal grants to encourage racial integration.  The grant money is also used to offer a specialized curriculum which may include courses that strengthen students’ academic skills along with vocational options.  

Recommended Book:  New York City's Best Public High Schools: A Parents' Guide. Clara Hemphill.

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Independent Schools

The term independent school is most frequently used to refer to a private school that is tuition-based and not dependent on government funding. New York City is home to a wide variety of independent school options.  Every independent school has its own unique mission and selects students through its own self-defined admissions process.  Residential address is not a factor in independent school admissions.  

  • Ages/grade-level served
  • Co-educational or single sex (“all girls” or “all boys”)
  • Cost and availability of financial aid
  • Educational philosophy and curriculum
  • Location
  • School building facilities and resources that support academics and extra-curricular activities
  • Size (individual class size and school as a whole) and teacher-to-student ratio

Independent schools will communicate their admissions deadlines on their own websites and applicant families are expected to adhere to these deadlines.  

Start early!   

  • You can begin to explore independent school options a year or more prior to the date of planned enrollment.  Starting your exploration during the spring or summer before the application year is advisable.  

  • Schools hold tours and open houses in the spring and early fall.

  • Expect to set aside time for touring and—for any schools to which you decide to apply—the interview process.  

Some Resources:

  • Completed application (typically found on each school’s website)
  • Standardized testing (examples include ISEE, SSAT)
  • Teacher recommendations
  • Official school transcript
  • Student visit
  • Many schools also require:
    • Student writing sample
    • Student art work portfolio or audition (if applicable)
    • Parent statement
    • Parent tour/interview
    • Assessment testing by school

Always check specific school website for admissions requirements.

Financial aid is available at most independent schools.  Awards are based on the determined need of the family and repayment is not required. Independent Schools make aid available in order to attract socioeconomic diversity in the interest of building a community that includes a wide range of views and life experiences.  

Families who intend to seek financial aid should note the following

  • To apply, you must request and complete a financial aid application and submit it by the deadline.
  • While aid is available, there is an expectation that families will finance their children's education to the extent that they are able.
  • Because financial aid is limited, it is suggested that families planning to apply for aid should generally apply for admission to 8-10 independent schools.  
  • Tuition is the amount of money the school asks families to pay. When comparing schools find out whether there are any additional fees for things such as lunch, books, before or after-school care, trips or activities.  
  • Many schools use outside financial aid services such as School and Student Services (SSS), Financial Aid for School Tuition (FAST), or TADS to determine financial aid need.
  • While most schools only offer need-based aid, some schools also offer scholarships based on criteria other than economic circumstances.  Additionally, some schools offer sibling discounts.
  • Many schools offer tuition payment plans which allow families to pay tuition in monthly installments.

Additional Financial Aid Information

  • A Better Chance selects academically talented students through a unique assessment model to enter Grades 6 through 11 in independent and public schools.
  • The Oliver Program selects highly motivated Grade 7 students of African American and Latino descent in NYC and offers them the support and guidance they need to gain admission to independent schools.
  • Prep for Prep identifies New York City's promising students of color in Grades 5 and 6 and prepares them for placement in independent schools in the city and boarding schools throughout the Northeast.
  • TEAK Fellowship identifies New York City students from low income families in Grade 7 and above and helps them gain admission to and succeed at the top high schools.
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Boarding Schools

Boarding schools are independent schools where students reside at the school during the semester. Much like attending college, most students at boarding school are immersed in the school campus for most of their time there, although students may attend these schools as a day-school as well.

  • Potential boarding school applicants should begin by narrowing their search to a few schools to which they wish to apply.
  • The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) offers information regarding the many kinds of schools as well as providing a central Admissions Application.
  • Contact individual schools to learn specific application requirements and deadlines.  
  • Testing:
    • Schools typically require specific admission tests such as the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) or the Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE) for which a student must be registered.
    • International students may be required to provide scores from tests of English proficiency such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language Junior (TOEFL Junior).
    • Other tests accepted by some schools in their admission process include the PSAT, the SAT I, and the ACT.

Always check specific school website for admissions and testing requirements.

Families should contact the financial aid offices of the specific schools to which they wish to apply to understand the full range of options available at each school.

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Faith-Based Schools

Faith-based schools are private schools maintained and supported by a religious body (e.g., Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Islamic). These schools are separate from the public school system and religious instruction is included in the curriculum.

  • The Admissions Process varies from school to school – check websites for specific details on timelines and requirements
  • Residential address is not a factor in faith-based school admissions 
  • Testing: Catholic high schools use the Test for Admission into Catholic High Schools (TACHS)
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Charter Schools

Charter schools are free public schools that are independent of the Department of Education and operate under a contract or “charter” of up to five years.  Many charter schools have unique educational approaches that might include longer days and/or a longer school year, or thematic programs. Any student eligible for admission to a New York City public school is eligible for admission to a public charter school.

  • Each charter admits students by lottery in April.
  • Applications are available on the New York City Charter School Center website or at the individual schools (Some schools will accept a common application).
  • Anyone may apply, but preference goes to children living in the school district in which the charter is located.
  • Most charters maintain a waitlist, and it is sometimes possible to get a seat in a charter during the school year.