There are more than 400 public high schools in New York City. Realistically, you will not be able to research them all. Our advice: Since students may rank up to 12 schools on the high school application, use our schools search tool to compile a list of at least 12 schools (in addition to specialized high schools). Try to visit each school on your list; if you can’t, at least attend the citywide and borough high school fairs to meet with school staff and current students. Ask lots of questions.
To help you identify schools that are a good fit, consider the following categories, and check out our video guides on applying to high school.
How is the commute?
Take a subway or bus ride to the school to see if the commute is doable. Think about what it will be like in the rain and snow, or coming home late in the evening after a sports event or a school performance. No time to test it out? Check the MTA’s Trip Planner or Google Maps.
Small school or large?
Large schools tend to have more sports teams, arts, clubs and choice in courses. Small schools often offer more personal attention and a sense of community; their college offices may also provide better support than a large school because there are fewer students to serve.
Fast-track or laid-back?
Some schools pile on the homework. Other schools have a slower pace and encourage kids to relax a bit. Think about what's best for you. Will you thrive in a rigorous and competitive environment? Or, are you more likely to learn and excel when the pressure's off? Regardless, make sure the school offers a true college prep curriculum. Some schools only offer three years of math and science, for example, while, selective colleges require four years of each.
"Chalk & talk" or collaborative learning?
Some schools stick to conventional ways of teaching: teacher lectures and standard textbook homework. Others focus more on group work, projects and may offer more opportunities for hands-on learning and field trips. Consider which approach best meets your learning style.
New school or well-established?
It's nice to go to a school with a proven track record. Most new schools take a few years to develop high level coursework and relationships with college admissions officers, so it can be a gamble to be in the first few graduating classes. However, if you're faced with the choice between an overcrowded, failing school or a new, untested small school, you might be better off going with the small one, if you feel comfortable with the theme and the leadership.
Theme school or general curriculum?
Be aware that some of the school "themes" exist in name only, especially when the founding principal leaves and the replacement has a different vision for the school. Ask to see a list of courses currently offered, find out whether there are connections with outside organizations that support the school's theme. The academics should be solid, no matter the theme.