For parents across New York City, September marks the start of the dreaded season. High school admissions season that is. This process is stressful for the thousands of eighth-grade students who are being compared against each other. However, it is even more daunting for parents of these children who only seek the best for them but do not know where to look. Every year, the high school admissions process becomes more competitive, but by how much is unknown by most parents. As a litmus test for competitiveness, consider the acceptance rates of the nation’s most selective college school group: The Ivy League. Within this group are internationally acclaimed universities such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Let’s focus on the admissions rate of just one of the schools within this group, New York’s very own Columbia University.
According to the US News and World Report’s most recent data of the 2017 academic school year, Columbia had an acceptance rate of approximately 6%. Using this, let’s compare this to some of the most competitive New York City high schools. In March 2017, Elizabeth A. Harris reported some of the acceptance rates of New York City public schools in her New York Times article “Couldn’t Get Into Yale? 10 New York City High Schools Are More Selective.” Of the ten most selective schools Harris listed acceptance rates of, the highest acceptance rate was 5.6% for Beacon High School, which is lower than Columbia’s hyper-competitive acceptance rate. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Harris cites the acceptance rate of the Manhattan/Hunter Science High School, not to be confused with Hunter College High School, which only accepts 1.7% of its applicants. For context, no university in the United States has an acceptance rate even comparable to this school. US News and World Report’s 2017 data reveals that the closest university with a similar acceptance rate is Stanford with an admissions rate of approximately 5%, which is nearly triple Hunter Science’s admissions rate.
The competitiveness of New York City’s high schools is not the only symptom of the systemic problem of admissions in the city. In fact, there is evidence that the socio-economic status of households plays a significant role in decisions about schools to even consider. In August 2019, Leslie Brody wrote a Wall Street Journal article about this titled “More Than a Quarter of New York City Students Attend Private or Charter Schools.” In her piece, Brody highlights that in more affluent school districts, a higher percentage of students tend to be enrolled in private schools, even when there are still great public school options, and in less affluent districts, more students tend to enroll in charter schools and public schools. What this reveals about households in New York City is that those coming from underserved communities are not aware of opportunities that they could have at private schools. Many financial aid and scholarship opportunities are kept in the dark for most parents in New York City, which is a significant reason why many high-achieving students are limited by where they live.
So, what are we to do to change this narrative? Some may want to have legislation that could make schools across New York City stronger, while others may want to rid some schools of admissions tests or other criteria (as for the latter, take a look at Alina Adam’s March 2019 New York Post opinion piece “The drive to change elite-school admissions is all about killing the messenger”). Whether its legislation or reform, one thing is for sure: information must be shared. If every underserved student with academic ambitions had a high school mentor who has been through the process so that they could be set up for success, and parents of these children could learn more about all their options, we would be one step closer to addressing inequality in high school admissions. This is what we seek to do here at NYCMentors.org.
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8th graders across the city will be applying to some of the city’s 700+ public high school programs by the December 1st application deadline this year. But with all the different types of high schools using various admissions methods, it can be overwhelming to keep track of all the requirements and deadlines. Here’s an overview of the different application processes for public high schools this year:
High school admissions tests are often considered the most stressful part of the application process. One’s grades and extracurriculars throughout high school can all be rendered worthless if an admissions test is failed. This is particularly true for the specialized public high schools in New York City who only consider the SHSAT test for consideration at their schools. With such stress inducing tests it is completely normal to feel anxious or nervous the night before an exam. Hopefully, this guide will allow you to go into your test center in a positive and motivated mindset.
7th grade is a formative year as a student, but also as an applicant to high schools. This is the most important year for your grades, as high schools will only see part of your 8th grade transcript and they are more lenient in judging your 6th grade transcript. But it is also a time for you to start exploring what you want out of a high school, so that you go into 8th grade with a good idea of the types of schools you want to apply to and with time to prepare for any admissions exams.
Whether you’re just starting middle school or are entering eighth grade, it is crucial to make sure that you continue to work hard and keep your grades up. Obtaining high grades in middle school is very important for the high school admissions process. Top high schools will especially prioritize your grades in seventh grade when making admissions decisions so it is incredibly important to try your best if you are entering seventh grade this year. Additionally, by making an effort to understand your academic material in middle school, you will be setting a strong academic foundation for high school.
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