New York City has 9 specialized public high schools designed to serve students who excel in academics and/or the arts. Due to their specialized nature, these high schools have selective admissions processes that involve either an admissions test, an artistic portfolio, or audition. If you’re currently in middle school and live in NYC, it’s a great time to start thinking ahead about your high school plans, and whether applying to one of these specialized high schools makes sense for you.
What Are the 9 Specialized High Schools?
The 9 specialized high schools of NYC are:
- The Bronx High School of Science
- Brooklyn Latin School
- Brooklyn Technical High School
- Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts
- High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College
- High School of American Studies at Lehman College
- Queens High School for the Sciences at York College
- Staten Island Technical High School
- Stuyvesant High School
The Bronx High School of Science
Photo by Bxsstudent
Though Bronx Science, as the name suggests, was initially founded as a specialized math and science school, students with a variety of interests attend. The course load here is well-rounded and rigorous: above all, the school is now known for its academically gifted and hard-working students. Bronx Science offers its students 37 out of a possible 38 AP courses (the only one not offered is AP German Language and Culture), as well as a variety of quality extracurricular clubs and activities (including the top Speech and Debate team in the country!). As a part of its IDEAS institute, scientifically-minded students can engage in robotics competitions, hackathons, and other programs that encourage students to make their ideas come to life. For more information on Bronx Science, see this Ivy blog post.
Bronx Science Ranking
According to Niche.com, Bronx Science is ranked #2 for Best Public High Schools in New York.
Brooklyn Latin School
Photo by Jim Henderson
Like most of the other high schools on this list, Brooklyn Latin is known for its academic rigor and quality course and extracurricular offerings. Brooklyn Latin has a particular strength and focus in the humanities and classics. Students here must take Latin, English, History, and a modern foreign language all 4 years of high school. Socratic dialogue and public speaking skills are fostered and encouraged. Students here wear uniforms, to resemble English boarding schools, and are required to take IB courses (which are similar to AP courses, but are recognized internationally). For more on Brooklyn Latin School, see this Ivy blog post.
Brooklyn Latin Ranking
According to Niche.com, Brooklyn Latin is ranked #54 for Best Public High Schools in New York.
Brooklyn Technical High School
Photo by Beyond My Ken
Brooklyn Technical High School has a particular focus on STEM subjects, especially those of an applied nature, and in many ways operates more like a college than a high school. At the end of their sophomore years, students are placed into one of 18 possible majors (decided based on a combination of a student’s preferences and demonstrated proficiency), which determines more selective courses students take in their final two years. It is the largest high school in the US by student population, and also has the largest AP program. This school is a great choice for students who are highly motivated and interested in the applied sciences. For more on Brooklyn Technical High School, see this Ivy blog post.
Brooklyn Technical High School Ranking
According to Niche.com, Brooklyn Tech is ranked #15 for Best Public High Schools in New York.
Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts
Photo by Ajay Suresh
LaGuardia High School is unique among the specialized high schools in that its focus is on the arts. That being said, academic strength is still required for acceptance here, and the school’s core academic courses are an important part of each student’s experience. Attending students have a visual or performing arts major (vocal music, instrumental music, visual arts, dance, drama, or technical theater), and spend time every day on both normal high school courses and courses related to their major. The goal is to marry conservatory style arts concentration with a full, traditional academic course load. For more on LaGuardia High School, see this Ivy blog post.
According to Niche.com, Laguardia is ranked #43 for Best Public High Schools in New York.
High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College
HSMSE offers both a challenging and comprehensive general academic program as well as particularly rigorous and high-quality course offerings in STEM disciplines. Students are required to take engineering courses, and take at least 5 courses in mathematics over their four years of high school. At the end of their sophomore year, students apply and are selected for one of three major concentrations (math, engineering, or medical research). Since the school is partnered with the Goethe-Institut, German is especially encouraged as a foreign language course, and students who take German have the chance to study abroad in Germany. It’s designed to be a small school of around 500 students, which allows students to get personal attention from dedicated teachers. Additionally, though small, the student body is extremely diverse, and the school has a variety of extracurricular offerings for students to participate in. For more on HSMSE, see this Ivy blog post.
High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College Ranking
According to Niche.com, HSME is ranked #8 for Best Public High Schools in New York.
High School of American Studies at Lehman College
HSAS is one of the newest and smallest specialized high schools, and focuses especially on American history. Students take American history courses three of their four years of high school and are required to take the AP US History exam. The school is partnered with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, which facilitates affordable trips outside of the city for students to visit historical sites, conduct research from primary sources, and attend talks by renowned lecturers. For more on HSAS, see this Ivy blog post.
High School of American Studies at Lehman College Ranking
According to Niche.com, HSAS is ranked #9 for Best Public High Schools in New York.
Queens High School for the Sciences at York College
Like HSAS, Queen High School for the science is relatively new and small among the specialized high schools, and is the only specialized high school in Queens. Though its emphasis is on the STEM disciplines, all students here take a variety of challenging courses beyond the sciences. All students at QHSS take AP classes, and many also take courses from York College professors that entitle them to college credit. As the high school is located on York College’s campus, QHSS students are entitled to use the college’s library, cafeteria, and gym. For more on QHSS, see this Ivy blog post.
Queens High School for the Sciences Ranking
According to Niche.com, Queens High School is ranked #53 for Best Public High Schools in New York.
Staten Island Technical High School
Photo by Tdorante10
Staten Island Technical High School offers a rigorous college preparatory curriculum, with a special emphasis on engineering and the sciences. This curriculum includes a pre-engineering program and a work-based learning program, which give students the chance to have hands-on engineering experiences, preparing them for higher education as well as the workforce. Since SITHS was founded during the Cold War, Russian is the only foreign language that students can take. Though this school has a very strong focus on engineering and technical subjects, its students have the option to partake in any of 15 AP courses offered (including several history and English language courses), and can partake in a variety of clubs and extracurricular activities, including strong athletic and theater programs. For more on SITHS, see this Ivy blog post.
Staten Island Technical High School Ranking
According to Niche.com, Staten Island Tech is ranked #3 for Best Public High Schools in New York.
Stuyvesant High School
Stuyvesant is one of the largest and most well-known of the specialized high schools in the city, recognized for its impressive alumni, rigorous academics, and quality course and extracurricular offerings. Students here are well-rounded, taking four full years respectively of history, English, science, and mathematics, and at least three years of a foreign language. The school offers students 31 of possible 38 AP courses to choose from, and administers more AP exams than any other high school in the world. Students here are admitted to the very top colleges and universities, and each year its graduating class sends several students respectively to schools like Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and MIT. For more on Stuyvesant, see this Ivy blog post.
Stuyvesant High School Ranking
According to Niche.com, Stuyvesant is ranked #1 for Best Public High Schools in New York.
How to Apply to a Specialized High School: General Rules
For eight of the nine specialized high schools (excluding LaGuardia), you must take the SHSAT to be considered for admission. In fact, your SHSAT scores are the only admission factor. The schools do not consider your grades or other test scores, so it’s crucial to be well-prepared for the SHSAT. The test is normally taken in the fall of 8th grade.
It is very important that you also research all the schools leading up to this time, and determine your preferences. On the day that you take the SHSAT, you will be required to rank the 8 schools that take the SHSAT in order of your preferences. You will automatically be placed into the school that you rank highest on your list, among those whose cutoff SHSAT scores you meet. So, for example, if you score high enough to get into Stuyvesant (which historically has the highest cut-offs), but you ranked Bronx Science higher on your list, you will only be admitted to Bronx Science.
If you are interested in attending LaGuardia High School, you will need to audition or submit a portfolio for the programs in which you are interested (each major has different audition/portfolio criteria, which is why you’ll need to apply separately for each). Historically, the auditions take place and the portfolios are submitted in person, but for the past few years, due to COVID, both have been taking place virtually. Fortunately, you can also use your LaGuardia application materials to apply to any other audition-based high school in the city with the relevant arts programs. Like the SHSAT, your LaGuardia High School audition or portfolio should be submitted in the fall of your eighth grade year.
You should get your SHSAT results and a letter indicating whether you received an offer to a specialized school in the following March. For more information on the specialized high schools and the admissions process, see this NYC Department of Education page.
NYC Specialized High School Test Prep
Since SHSAT scores are the defining metric for acceptance to most of the specialized high schools, it’s crucial to be well-prepared and confident going into this test. Though you won’t register for the test until September, it’s a good idea to use your summer break as a time to study. In fact, here at Ivy, we recommend that students planning on taking the SHSAT in the fall of 8th grade start studying in the spring of 7th grade (although it certainly doesn’t hurt to start earlier).
The NYC Department of Education provides a preparation guide each year, such as this guide from 2022. This guide is a good starting point to familiarizing yourself with the format and content of the test.
Taking an initial diagnostic test before diving fully into your studying journey is a great way to get a good sense of your strengths and weaknesses, and develop a customized plan towards mastery. At Ivy Tutors Network, we can administer this diagnostic test, provide a comprehensive report to help you understand the results, and help you create a strategic plan for your test prep.
As with any standardized test, practice is crucial. Regular and consistent practice will not only help you master the material, but also essential testing skills like time management. This practice should include additional timed practice tests to simulate the testing experience. Ivy Tutors Network can proctor these tests, and our experienced SHSAT tutors can over them with you afterwards to help you understand every question you got wrong.
In addition to individual tutoring sessions, Ivy Tutors Networks offers small group online SHSAT classes for 7th and 8th graders. These classes cover all the foundational content on the test as well as testing tips and strategies. The small groups match students at similar levels, so students can both get individualized attention from our tutors and learn from one another.
Though the SHSAT may seem daunting, starting preparation early and thoughtfully can make success achievable and manageable. Ultimately, the test rewards students who are consistent and dedicated in their study, which are qualities that also help students succeed at these academically rigorous specialized schools.
And you don’t have to go on this journey alone! Our tutors are experts in helping students master the SHSAT, and can guide you each step of the way!