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NYC High School Preparation Guide for Seventh Grade 2021

March 11, 2021 NYC Mentors.org Staff

Seventh grade is one of the most important years in middle school. This is the year that most high schools will pay attention to in terms of standardized exams, grades, and extracurriculars. Though this can be a stressful year both for students and for families, this guide is meant to help you reduce this anxiety and make the most of this year! Through the following steps, families can help their children continue to prepare for the high school admissions process and tackle the challenges that lie ahead.


Attending high school open houses


The main goal of the seventh grade should be to get a good sense of the schools that your child would likely apply to and attend. One of the best ways to find out more about particular schools is to attend open houses. While attending an open house, make sure that you ask questions to both administrators and students at the school so you can gain a complete view of the school. Some high schools are interested to see that you have attended open houses, so for schools on your radar, it is a good idea to sign up for any events. However, do not limit yourself to just attending open houses for schools you are currently interested in! It is a common occurrence for families to love a school they had not previously considered after attending an open house.


The best way for parents and guardians to find out about these admissions events is to visit the website of the high school or call the admissions office for more information. For a calendar with school events around NYC consider visiting our website’s events page here. In addition to open houses, some schools offer a “day-as-a-student” opportunity where your child can sign up to attend classes while being guided by a high school student at the school. Camps and other special events are other great options as well to learn more about a school.


Finalizing a high school list


One of the most significant reasons why most families are anxious and stressed as they go through the NYC high school admissions process is because they are not prepared! Having a head start in middle school not only makes the process easier but can open your eyes to schools you would not have considered otherwise and potential scholarship and financial aid opportunities. By having a finalized high school list in the seventh grade, your child can more effectively prepare for future requirements of the schools they will be applying to such as portfolios and standardized tests. The earlier you start the better!


Building on the preliminary list that you create in the sixth grade, you can begin to narrow down the list more and attend events hosted by these schools to determine whether they are the right fit. Once you have a final list, then the next step should be to plan out what your child needs to work on over the next year so they are in a good position as they apply to these schools. Be on the lookout for any special requirements there might be for non-public schools you are considering such as attending certain events or signing up for special programs for your child before they apply!


Figuring out the tests needed for high schools


As you finally decide on the high schools you would like to apply to, you will find out that there are many different types of exams required for various schools. Here are some of the most common ones.


Specialized Public High Schools = SHSAT


The SHSAT is the Specialized High School Admissions Test, which is the test used by the Specialized High Schools to rank students. Students will rank the schools in order of preference on the test. Those who score the highest receive their top choice until the school they selected runs out of seats. There are no official “cutoff” scores, but families in forums figure out the lowest score that a student admitted to each school received. For a calculator and table of cutoff scores see this year’s blog post here. You can only take this once.

Non-religious Private Schools = ISEE or SSAT


The ISEE is the Independent School Entrance Examination. Families using this test for admissions must sign up for the Upper Level ISEE. You can take this more than once. The SSAT is the Secondary School Admission Test. Families using this test for admissions must sign up for the Upper Level SSAT. You can take this more than once as well. Both exams use a percentile score to determine how students performed on the exam compared to their peers and a student’s score is not the full determining factor when they apply to independent (private) schools.


Catholic High Schools = TACHS or HSPT


The TACHS is the Test for Admission into Catholic High School. It is primarily used by Catholic schools as part of the application process. A student’s score is not the full determining factor when they apply to Catholic schools. Students rank their top three Catholic school preferences on the exam, and the codes for these schools can be found on the TACHS student handbook here. You can only take this once. The HSPT is the High School Placement Test. It is primarily used by Catholic schools as part of the application process. A student’s score is not the full determining factor when they apply to Catholic schools and can sometimes be used for decisions for scholarships. You can only take this once as well.

As you can see there are different tests required for different types of schools. In fact, some schools (not listed) have their own admissions exams as well! Each has its own format and types of questions they ask. Though not advertised, these exams test at nearly a high school level so it is incredibly important to get started with test preparation in the sixth grade and continue to build on your child’s foundation in the seventh grade. By taking the time to learn the more complex topics on these exams, your child will be more prepared for both learning in the classroom and success on these exams.


We at NYC Mentors.org give all of our mentees a free IXL learning account to practice ELA and math. Our mentors use the continuous diagnostic that IXL offers to determine where our mentees lie based on the NY state standard so they can make recommendations and track their mentees' progress as they progress through middle school.


Continuing to be active in extracurricular activities and developing a portfolio


If your child did not have the opportunity in the sixth grade to sign up for extracurriculars, you should encourage them to sign up for ones that interest them at the start of the seventh grade. Otherwise, if your child has already taken part in extracurricular activities since the sixth grade, seventh grade is a great opportunity to take initiative in leadership roles in their activities. 


Though a year may seem like a short period of time, you will find that your child will mature a lot by the time they are a seventh-grader. As they learn to take on more school responsibilities and challenge themselves more both inside and outside of the classroom, extracurriculars offer a unique opportunity for students to learn about leadership and ways they can be active within their school. Though not a requirement for all schools, this is a great opportunity for students to develop skills that will serve them well in high school and later in life. And for families considering private high schools, leadership roles in extracurriculars will help your child stand out among applicants.


In addition to continuing extracurriculars, you should also help your child continue to build their portfolio. Your child’s portfolio consists of their best work in the form of tests, projects, writing pieces, or artwork. A significant portion of the portfolio may come from your child’s seventh-grade work, so it is crucial that you do not throw out old assignments or tests! It can be tempting for families to throw out old school work, but some high schools may ask for samples in your child’s portfolio, so make sure you save your child’s best work. You will find that every year your child will improve in the quality of their work samples, so you are encouraged to update the portfolio with work from the seventh grade.


Maintaining a good report card throughout the year


Last (but definitely not least!) it is important to maintain a good report card during the seventh grade. Much as it was important to try to get a solid foundation during the sixth grade, the seventh-grade report card plays an important role as well in admissions. For non-public schools, schools will evaluate all grades. However, public high schools that screen students often would use seventh-grade grades to rank their students. 


Screen public schools do this using a selection criteria, which is a rubric that allows schools to assign a score to each student applying. Because grades can play a significant role in these criteria, it is in your best interest that your child puts their best foot forward with their work in the classroom so they will have a better chance at getting into their dream high school. As a parent or guardian, it is important to keep track of your child’s progress in the classroom and see if there are ways you can help your child work out any problems they face with their teachers.


With these tips, your child will be more equipped to make the most of their second year of middle school. In fact, these are guidelines our mentors use as they work with their seventh-grade students. Consider signing up for mentorship and taking a look at some of the other guides we feature on our website!


NYC Mentors.org Inc. is a registered 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that connects middle school students with older peers to guide, support, and mentor them and their families with the NYC high school application process.

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