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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 throughout the five boroughs. 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.

While school choice policies aim to improve achievement by empowering families to select a school that they believe will best serve their student’s needs, research shows that families often find the process overwhelming and difficult to navigate. In addition, underserved students have been found to be more likely to opt for nearby schools and less likely to include higher-performing schools on their lists.

To help students find their best-fit high school programs, the foundation 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.

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.

Designed with student users in the mind, the Guide was developed in collaboration with a software company that specializes in education technology solutions 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.

The Guide is also a cornerstone of the NYC High School Admissions Study, one of the largest randomized control trials of information supports for school choice ever conducted. 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, ultimately, have better high school and postsecondary outcomes.

In late 2016, the foundation celebrated the Guide’s success by spinning it off to an independent team of prominent educators with an agreement to fund the continued improvement and full rollout of the guide for one year to all 603 eighth-grade serving schools in New York City. The team will take over full management of the Guide in 2017.

The Guide is available in English and Spanish for both iOS and Android at no cost.