This year’s admissions season presented several unique challenges. The timeline for families to submit materials and applications was shorter than usual, and the late announcement of the “Tiers Grading Metric” for screened schools – and students’ placements in specific tiers – took families by surprise. This combination forced many families to reevaluate their strategy and school lists fairly late in the process. This caused additional stress, and may also have contributed to families submitting school lists that were not realistic.
The good news? The timeline should go back to normal this year (fingers crossed), and we can plan ahead for what we anticipate may happen this fall.
In this article, we’ll let you know the key insights from this year’s admissions results, as well as some tips and strategies to stay ahead of the game.
If you’re asking yourself, “How could there be insights and strategy when it comes to public high school admissions?” don’t fret! Just head over to this article that explains the complexities of the admissions process.
Was the SHSAT harder than in past years? What is the best way for students to prepare for the exam?
The SHSAT does seem to have been a bit harder than in past years, and included math problems that had not appeared in past DOE-issued tests.
As always, the best way for students to prepare for the SHSAT is to start early. Aim to craft a study plan that includes content acquisition, general test taking strategies, and individualized test taking strategies. Practice tests are an important way to gain stamina and skills. Consider keeping a running set of questions that your child has struggled with and using that to create a “super test.” Also, continue to aim for 50 points above the predicted school cut-off for your number one choice. This will allow some cushion for a rough test day. The SHSAT is a challenging test, but it is not “unbeatable!”
What were the most important admissions factors this season?
7th grade grades had a very strong impact on admissions and are likely to continue to do so. Many schools that historically were considered easier to get into did not extend offers to students below Tier 1 (top 15%).
In addition, for many of the most competitive schools, students needed to be in Tier 1 AND have a very strong lottery number. It was not enough to have one or the other.
Based on this information, how can I increase my child’s chances of receiving school offers?
Make sure your child feels supported and confident as they approach the end of 7th grade. Language I find helpful that is motivating but not demoralizing is “Some of the schools that may be the best fit for you will look closely at 7th grade grades so we want to try to put our best foot forward with those schools.”
If your child does not have a strong lottery number, and / or is not in Tier 1 it will be even more important to cast a wide net. This could include putting strong energy into preparing for the SHSAT, considering audition schools, including LaGuardia, researching schools that are not as competitive but are considered “hidden gems,” and looking at private, parochial or charter schools.
In addition, certain schools that asked for school-based assessments in addition to or in lieu of 7th grade grades evaluated submissions on a very granular level. This may allow students who are not in Tier 1 or don’t have a strong lottery number to still be highly ranked by those schools. Consider applying for schools that did this, including Bard Manhattan, Bard Queens, Nest+M, Townsend Harris, School of the Future, etc.
Were there any changes to the waitlist process?
The waitlist process HAS shifted, creating an advantage for students who were auto-waitlisted at schools, i.e., they had listed the schools in their original application and were matched to a school ranked below those schools. For certain of these schools you would also receive a new lottery number if auto-waitlisted.
To take advantage of these changes, consider including one “dream” school (maximum: two) at the top of your list even if there is no chance you will receive an offer in the main round of admissions. Note: For screened schools waitlists will still be ordered by Tier, so make sure your dream school is still realistic.
How can I create the right school list for my child?
The DOE included a lot more information about what types of students received offers at specific schools last year, which should help with creating a realistic list. However, some of the information is very challenging to wade through.
If you feel you may need support either in creating your “right fit” school list, decoding the odds of getting into specific schools, balancing out and ranking your options, and/or preparing for the various admissions tests and keeping class grades up pretty please ask for help! There are many options for support, including school guidance counselors and friends, as well as support from companies like mine and Ivy Tutors Network.
**Note that we will not know exactly how the DOE will administer high school admissions for the class entering high school in fall 2024 until this fall. We are assuming a process similar to that faced by this year’s admissions class.