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Best High Schools in NYC

Enrolling in the best high schools in NYC

Getting a seat in one of the top public high schools in New York requires a great deal of preparation. While there are over 400 public high schools, perhaps only 12 are routinely named among the top high schools in NYC. The top group includes High School of American Studies at Lehman College, KIPP Academy Charter School, Brooklyn Latin School, Staten Island Technical High School, Baccalaureate School for Global Education, Eleanor Roosevelt, Beacon, Millenium and Queens High School for the Sciences at York College. There are several others, but the idea is that there are truly few exceptional high schools in NYC in contrast to the huge number of students seeking admission. The competition for these public schools seats is intense. One cannot simply move into a neighborhood with a desirable high school and enroll. Rather, there is testing, applications, preparation and strategy. Here are some key steps to follow.

  • Start researching early and allow enough time to visit schools. Some schools record your attendance and will give some preference to those who have visited.
  • Prepare for the challenging SHSAT exam. Some ambitious families begin in elementary school with tutoring and learning test taking strategies. For some elite schools like Bronx Science, this is the only admission criterion.
  • Make a list of about 12 schools and write down the admissions priorities and requirements for each.
  • On school visits, ask admissions what they review and relative weight placed on each part of the application.
  • Include all 12 target schools on your application in order of preference. If you limit your list to a few of the most popular high schools, you will compete with thousands of other capable students for a handful of seats.
  • Grade seven performance is key. High schools in NYC base their decision on grade seven results.

Understandably, some families are frustrated by this long and taxing process. You may have moved into the area after grade nine intake, at which point, it is virtually impossible to get a seat at any of the top public high schools in New York. They are already fully subscribed. Some families will search out special honors programs within larger schools. Seeking a unique curriculum is an option, although the International Baccalaureate, for example, is not widely known in New York. Many families will opt to apply to a private high school.

Admission to a top private high school in New York

There are many world-class independent school options. Similar admissions strategies apply: thorough research, school visits, preparation for entrance exams and drafting thoughtful essays. There is more emphasis on the candidate and family interview. Getting the school match right is critical. Independent high schools in New York are building unique learner communities. Each will be slightly different – a reflection of the school’s culture and core beliefs. Schools accept the entire family, not just the student. In addition to the grades and academics, you will want to carefully evaluate the school’s culture to assure that your family and your student are a good match.

Here are some things to observe when assessing a school’s culture.

  • Do students greet you?
  • How are the classrooms arranged? Does this promote discussion or one way communication?
  • How do teachers interact with students? Is there mutual respect?
  • What is the PTA up to? Does this demonstrate that parents have a voice?
  • Search for evidence of joy and rigor. These are key qualities of a terrific school.

Some examples of best high schools in NYC:

  • Horace Mann School
  • Trinity School
  • Dalton School
  • Packer Collegiate School
  • Collegiate School
  • Friends Seminary
  • Poly Prep Country day School
  • Ethical Culture Fieldston School
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