It’s that time of year again.
After agonizing for months — and often years — over their high school application choices, nearly 80,000 middle school families across New York City are anxiously awaiting Round 1 results of the public high school admissions process.
Sometime in early March — the NYC Department of Education (NYC DoE) will announce the exact date close to the release — middle schools will receive and distribute high school assignment letters in what has become one of the most emotional days facing middle school students.
It is emotional because, while most students will receive a match to one of the choices they listed on their application, they don’t know whether it will be to their first choice, their sixth choice, or their last choice out of 12. The match they get represents the school they are expected to attend for the next four years. Worst of all, several thousand students may end up with no match at all in Round 1, due to the choices they made on the application they submitted in December.
What to Expect: 5 Scenarios
Many of my clients have asked about the various scenarios that could arise after Round 1, and I explain that there are multiple possibilities. Round 1 results will arrive in a letter delivered by guidance counselors on that fateful day in March, and I strongly encourage students to open their letter at home. While the majority of them will be matched to one of their top three choices, the emotions that teens feel about possibly separating from friends, not getting one of their top choices, or worse, not getting any match, can create an atmosphere of extremes — from wild excitement to painful disappointment.
Follow this link for advice on how to deal with disappointing school results from a New York City school advisor.
Having said that, allow me to briefly review five of the most likely possible outcomes, using a fictional eighth grade student named Sam. It is critical to consider these possibilities before Round 1 results come out, especially since the window of opportunity and action is only a few weeks long.
Sam gets matched to the fourth choice on her application. Because she sat for the SHSAT and her score qualified for her first choice, Brooklyn Latin, she gets an offer from that specialized high school. Students who take this exam submit one ranked list for the specialized high schools and another on the high school application for other high schools; Sam may choose either school.
Read here for more information about the different types of NYC high school choices available.
Sam gets matched to the seventh choice on her application. She had other preferences listed higher on the application, but she is willing to live with this match and does nothing.
Unfortunately, Sam is not matched to one of her choices in Round 1. In her letter, she gets a list of available programs with openings in Round 2, and is told that she must pick up to 12 programs from this list and submit another application. She is encouraged to attend the Round 2 high school fair to meet with representatives from these schools before submitting her new application a couple of weeks later (exact dates and details will be announced by the NYC DoE when Round 1 decisions go out).
Before making her final choices, she carefully reviews the Round 2 list for programs with open seats. She also reviews their admissions criteria (audition, screened, and so on), and notices that one of her Round 2 choices requires an audition. She quickly contacts the school — through its website or by calling the school — to register for an audition. Sam is eventually matched to a high school at the end of Round 2, in this case, one of her Round 2 choices.
Sam gets matched to the seventh choice on her Round 1 application, but she understands she has the option to enter Round 2 if she sees something on this list that she prefers over her Round 1 match. She gets the Round 2 list of available schools from the guidance office at her middle school.
Her counselor tells Sam that if she gets a match in Round 2, she will give up her Round 1 match. She sees three programs on the Round 2 list she prefers over her seventh choice match and decides to submit the Round 2 application. She is willing to give up her Round 1 match for these preferred choices and understands that she will not be able to get it back — even through an appeal.
Sam gets matched to her seventh choice from Round 1 and is unhappy with this result. She sees nothing on the Round 2 list she prefers over her seventh choice, so she does not submit a Round 2 application.
Sam learns that she can appeal her Round 1 match. After speaking with her counselor, Sam understands that there are legitimate hardships — travel, safety, or medical — on which to base an appeal. She asks her counselor for an appeal form (typically available after Round 2 results are released in May), since she has nothing to lose and believes that the grounds for her appeal are strong. She and her family complete the form — including the reason for the appeal and a list of three program choices — and submit it to her counselor in May.
The outcome of the appeal process is usually one of the following:
- The student’s appeal is denied, and she must keep her original match.
- The student’s appeal is granted, and she attends one of the three programs she requested.
- The student's appeal is granted, and because the family had granted approval, she is matched to another program assigned by the DOE that also meets the needs she specified.
A Final Word
These five scenarios represent the vast majority of students who will get Round 1 results in early March. There is one final option to consider. If your child starts at a school that she doesn’t like, she can consider transferring to a different school for 10th grade. This is a good option to explore because transfer decisions aren’t binding, and if your child has second thoughts after being accepted, she can decline the offer and remain at her current high school.
Understanding your options and planning a course of action are the most effective steps families can take in the event a student is dissatisfied with her high school match.
Good luck, middle schoolers!
If you’re reading this in anticipation of what’s to come, check out these tips for middle schoolers to get a jump start on the process!