Choosing a High School! Already?

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Applying for high school may seem like a daunting task – especially if your child is just settling into the last year of junior high or elementary school. It can appear even more challenging if you are a first-timer.

But, veteran parents say if you do your homework you can have an easy and stress-free experience. They say good planning, research, and communication with school administrators — and your own child – are valuable lessons they learned over the years.

“The first time through the process was somewhat overwhelming,” said Theresa Villani of Westerleigh, whose two sons Vincent, a senior, and Brian, a freshman, now attend Monsignor Farrell High School. “There is so much to choose from and you want to have all the information possible to help them make the right choice.”

There is no time like the present to get the 2017-2018 high school admissions process started, according to parents we spoke to recently. Whether it is your first or fourth time applying, they recommend taking advantage of available resources, following deadlines in a timely manner, and asking for assistance from fellow parents and school administrators.

(scroll down for important admissions dates)

“My suggestion would be start early,” Mrs. Villani said. “Begin looking at schools in 7th grade and make sure they shadow wherever possible at the beginning of 8th grade.”

With application deadlines and entrance exams right around the corner, parents who are diligent will ensure that their child has a smooth transition into high school. Open houses and information fairs are an invaluable tool in streamlining the decision-making and application processes, parents said.

“The open houses provided a feel for the school and the environment, as well as admissions and scholarship information specific to each school, and an overview of the programs,” Mrs. Villani said. Many of the open houses for public, private, and specialized schools begin in the fall, so timing is of the essence to minimize any confusion and maximize opportunities, parents said.

Important elements to look for during open houses, according to Linda Ferretti of Westerleigh, are school size, whether it’s co-educational, its reputation, its focus on college preparation, the faculty, the commute, and testimonies of current students and their parents.

“It is also important to shadow the school once you have your choices narrowed down,” said Mrs. Ferretti, whose two sons, Nick, a senior, and Joseph, a freshman, also attend Monsignor Farrell. “It gives your child a better feel for the actual school day and attitude of the students.”

Rina Cuzzocrea of Manor Heights attended open houses with her sons, Joseph and Leandro, to expand their knowledge of different schools – even though they were accepted to Susan Wagner High School’s Scholars’ Academy and were eager to play football there. She also utilized the NYC High School Directory, published by the DOE, which lists the zoned public and specialized high schools, their programs and admission codes, as well as other important information needed in the application process.

Even if your child is considering a private or Catholic high school, they should still apply to their zoned school as a backup. Parents can find their child’s zoned high school by entering their address on the NYC DOE website at

Eighth graders complete a single high school application for zoned schools and choose 12 programs, ranked in order of preference. “When you’re filling out the [public] high school application, make sure you put down your child’s choices in the order they want,” shared Mrs. Cuzzocrea, whose youngest son, Anthony, is a freshman at Wagner this year. “If they don’t have a match for their first choice, they will be stuck with the choices you put down after that first choice,” she warned.

Seats are limited for some of the 700 unique programs within the city’s 400 zoned high schools, such as ROTC or performing or visual arts programs at Susan Wagner, for instance. There is also limited space in the city’s nine specialized schools, like Staten Island Technical High School and Stuyvesant High School, for which students take the Specialized High School Admissions Test in October. According to the DOE, last year 28,500 new students took the SHSAT for September 2016 admission.

Students can apply to only one or up to nine specialized schools and will need to prioritize these choices and copy them onto the test answer sheet. Admission to specialized high schools is based on test scores, which are ranked from highest to lowest, and students are offered seats at their highest-ranked schools with available seats.

The 2016-2017 Specialized High Schools Student Handbook with detailed information about this process is distributed by teachers or can be viewed at Search Specialized High Schools Handbook to select the PDF.

Meanwhile, students with disabilities or special needs apply to zoned public high schools, specialized schools, and obtain auditions to LaGuardia following the same steps as their non-disabled peers, but are eligible to apply for testing extensions and other accommodations, according to the DOE.

Students with disabilities who are recommended for and have attended a District 75 program and are considering a high school outside of District 75 should work with their IEP team to determine whether the recommendation for District 75 for high school is still appropriate, according to the DOE.

Other special education programs available on Staten Island include the Bishop Patrick V. Ahern High School, sponsored by the Seton Foundation for Learning.
The private, special education school for students ages 14 to 21 was opened in 1998 and provides a combination of functional academics, social skills training, and a vocational, community-based work study program. Parents can contact Donna Jennings, director of the high school program, at 718-982-5084, or visit the school’s website at

Students wishing to attend Catholic high school must take the Test for Admission into Catholic High Schools, known as TACHS, which is administered in November. Students list their top three choices in order of preference, and their scores are used to determine their acceptance – as well as potential scholarships according to schools’ own criteria.

Other high school options on Staten Island include private prep schools, and two charter schools.

Staten Island Academy is a private, co-ed, college preparatory school for grades Pre-K to 12. Parents can access all the information they need, including tours, open house, entrance exam, tuition, scholarships, and much more, through the admissions tab on their website,

Meanwhile, two public charter schools on the Island include the John W. Lavelle Preparatory School for grades six through 12, and the New Ventures Charter School for grades nine through 12, both of which are college prep schools that utilize lottery systems for new enrollment, and place a focus on students with special needs.

Lavelle uses a separate lottery for enrollment of general education, and special education students, which must have an IEP to qualify. Applications are usually due by early April for the lottery, and students are notified in May.

New Ventures promotes college and career readiness for over-age, under-credited at-risk youth ages 16-21 who graduate with Regents diplomas. Open houses usually take place in February and March, and students must be 16 years old to apply to the lottery by the early April deadline. They must also have earned a minimum of 16 high school credits and passed at least one required Regents exam by April.

Parents like Donna Lauser of Westerleigh, preferred the Catholic high school application process over the lengthy public high school process, where she felt choosing zoning and special programs, as well as the longer wait time, contributed to her feeling it was a more complicated and confusing process. Two of her four children’s public school Round One applications were unmatched and faced Round Two considerations.

“As a first-timer going through this process I found it confusing and cause for much anxiety,” she said of her experiences with son Nicholas (a Tottenville High School alum), and daughters, Jessica and Danielle (St. John Villa alumni) – all of whom have since graduated from high school. Timothy, her youngest, is a freshman at St. Peter’s Boys High School.

In all of her children’s situations, the final selection process was made based on the various programs, sports opportunities, or the success of the open house visits, according to Mrs. Lauser.

Mrs. Cuzzocrea also admitted her first experience was confusing, but assistance from friends and family, and school administrators, helped simplify the process by the third time. “The best resource I found was parents who already completed the process in prior years,” Mrs. Ferretti added. “You rely on the experienced parents to calm you down and get you through.”

“Whatever questions I still had would be researched on the Internet or answered by other mothers who had been through this process,” Mrs. Lauser agreed.

The intimidation factor decreased for Mrs. Ferretti, who said the second time “was a piece of cake.” “It just seems more overwhelming than it actually is,” she added. “My boys were three years apart in the process and basically nothing changed.”

Overall, parents said gathering a wealth of information, adhering to the deadlines, and having a good idea of your child’s interests, can help facilitate the process.

Lastly, parents said allowing your child to make the final selection is crucial. “People I’ve known made the decisions for their kids, and the kids were miserable and didn’t do well at all,” Mrs. Cuzzocrea said. “Let your child make their decision. If your kid is happy, they will do well in that school.”

By Christine Albano, a Staten Island mother of three, including a high school freshman. Christine loves photography, traveling, writing poetry, and is looking forward to open houses with her 8th grade daughter.


More detailed information about applying to zoned or specialized high schools can be found at Parents can also call (718) 935-2399, or email: [email protected].

Additional information about special education services can be found at

For questions about the TACHS exam, visit:

Important Dates for NYC Public High School Admissions
September 10-October 13 – Registration period for Fall SHAT and LaGuardia High School auditions.

September 24 & 25 – Citywide High School Fairs

October 15 & 16 Borough High School Fairs

October 22 & 23 – SHSAT testing for all current 8th grade students

October 30 & November 5 – SHSAT for all current 9th grade students and 8th and 9th grade students who are English Language Learners or students with disabilities who have IEP’s or 504 plans

December 1 – High School Application Deadline

March – Application results distributed

Important Dates for Catholic High School Admissions
August 22 – October 17 – Registration period for the TACHS exam for Internet and telephone registration

October 24 & 25 – Admit Card Distribution

November 4 – TACHS ADMINISTRATION for Archdiocese of New York (includes Staten Island)

December 15 – Paper TACHS Applicant Records due to student’ three high school choices

January 11 – Release of admission notices by high schools