Targeted Problem Solving

NYC High School Application Guide


Choosing a high school in New York City can be a daunting task, with more than 700 programs to choose from in 400-plus schools. Each year, nearly 80,000 middle school students rank up to 12 high school programs they would like to attend. A complex algorithm then pairs students with schools, taking into account the students’ preferences, available space, and the schools’ own rankings and priorities. Student choices are too often uninformed, particularly among underserved students who may not have enough assistance from parents or guidance counselors.


We developed the NYC High School Application Guide: a free mobile app and website that uses information about students’ interests, current middle school, and willingness to commute to provide a customized list of 20 high school recommendations with an emphasis on higher-performing schools that have a strong track record of graduating students in four years. The Guide is available in English and Spanish for both iOS and Android.

Designed with student users in mind, the Guide was developed in collaboration with a software company that specializes in education technology solutions and with guidance from school choice researchers at New York University and a former New York City Director of High School Admissions. It has been extensively tested in partnership with select schools, external evaluators, and experts in the field.

We celebrated the Guide’s success by spinning it off to an independent team of prominent educators who promoted it to all 603 eighth-grade-serving schools in New York City in 2018.

Tens of thousands of students will now have a simple, interactive tool to identify best-fit high schools with strong graduation rates. By helping all students make informed choices, we're not only addressing inequities in the high school application process but, ultimately, impacting students’ college readiness and success.
Peter Sloane, Chairman and CEO, Heckscher Foundation for Children

Promising Study Results

The Guide is a cornerstone of one of the largest randomized control trials of information supports for school choice ever conducted, the NYC High School Admissions Study. Led by researchers from New York University, Princeton University, Columbia University, and Seton Hall University, the ongoing, multi-year study will determine if informational tools, such as the NYC High School Application Guide, can help students make more ambitious high school choices and lead to better high school and postsecondary outcomes. 

Read about in our press release or in The Wall Street Journal