Types of Schools: NYC High School Choice

Now that you've narrowed down the top NYC high schools for your child, here's what's next.

December 2nd is the day eighth grade students will be required to turn in their ranked list of high school choices (up to 12) to their guidance counselors. Carefully consider schools that get ranked on your “List of 12.”

Each and every school on the list should be a school where you’re willing to enroll. Any school on the list is fair game, so if you don’t really want to attend a school, don’t put it on your list. Once you’ve done the research, visited open houses, and gone on school tours, it’s time to consider the admissions methods at the different types of schools.


Audition programs assess the student’s performance or portfolio of work to determine admission. Be sure to visit the school’s profile to find out requirements, dates, times, and locations of auditions. Some audition schools may also consider grades, test scores, and attendance records. Students may audition for more than one program (for example, a student might audition for both dance and drama). Let your school guidance counselor know if you are planning to audition.

Educational Option

Designed to serve a wide range of academic performers, Ed Opt schools use the English Language Arts (ELA) state test scores from 7th grade and identify the top 16% of scores, the middle 68%, and the lowest 16%. Half of the students who gain admission to an Ed Opt school will be matched based on their rank of that school, while the other half will be selected randomly.

Limited Unscreened

Limited Unscreened schools give preference to students who show interest in the program by attending an open house or visiting the school’s table at a high school fair. Be sure to sign in so the school knows you were there!

Screened Schools

Screened schools consider a student’s grades, test scores, and attendance record for 7th grade. The grade range these schools are willing to consider varies: some will accept students with grades between 70-100, while others will only consider students with straight As.

Take a good look at these requirements and how you stack up before listing screened programs on your List of 12. It’s very important to find out which schools screen for grades, test scores, and tardies/absences. Make sure you know if your 7th grade report card will help or hurt you, and make your list accordingly. Also know that some screened programs will request additional information such as an interview, essay, or teacher recommendations. If there are schools on your List of 12 that have additional requirements, make sure to complete them by December 2nd.

Specialized Schools

Keep in mind the List of 12 is not for specialized high schools. Students apply to the nine specialized high schools on a separate form, and must take the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) to be eligible. LaGuardia additionally requires an audition.

When ranking the specialized high schools, students and families should consider their preferences (like school size and academic focus), location and distance to home, and the likelihood of getting in. How do you determine the likelihood of gaining admission? It’s tough. The DOE does not report cutoff scores for these schools in any official capacity, but you can ask questions on Noodle to find out what scores students have reported in the past to gain some context.

The other tricky part? When you take a practice SHSAT exam (which is highly recommended) your score will be out of 100, but that is a raw score, and the DOE does not report the formula they use to scale the scores out of 800. Anecdotally, if a student is scoring in the 70s and above on a practice test, they are more likely to get into the schools with the highest score cutoffs, like Bronx Science and Stuyvesant. Students scoring well below 60 should consider ranking schools with lower (not low, just lower) cutoff scores. Specialized high school matches are separate from the List of 12 public schools, so potentially a student could gain admission to two schools (or even three if a student also auditions for LaGuardia).

Unscreened Schools

Students who apply are randomly selected.


There aren’t many zoned schools left in New York City. Zoned programs admit students based on a geographic area. Zoned Priority schools will match students until the seats are filled, so students in that geographic area are not guaranteed a match. Zoned Guarantee schools, on the other hand, can be placed last on the List of 12 and if a student does not match to any other school ranked above it on his/her list, a place in the Zoned Guarantee school is, well, a guarantee.

Insider Tip #1: Some schools have multiple programs, each with a different admissions method. That means you can list a school twice or even three times on your List of 12 using different program codes. Be sure to fulfill any additional requirements a school may have, like essays and teacher recommendations. If the additional requirements are not complete for a school by the December 2nd deadline, consider removing it from the list and moving up a school for which you have completed the requirements. Spaces on your list are limited, so use them wisely!

Insider Tip #2: Some schools have multiple avenues for admission. For example, a larger school might have a screened program, a limited unscreened program, and an audition program. Each program has a different school code, which means you can list each different school code on your high school application, and as such, basically apply multiple times to the same school. But again, be sure that if you are applying to a program with an additional requirement (like an audition), that you show up on audition day with all the materials you need.

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