Katherine Studt, who lives on the Upper East Side, has been on several high school tours with her father and wants to find a quality writing program. Bryan Abreu, from the South Bronx, talked to his friends about the admissions process and picked a school with a good basketball team.
This week, Katherine and Bryan are two of the city’s nearly 75,000 eighth-graders who faced the same deadline — to submit a list that’s likely to determine where they spend their next four years of school.
Unsurprisingly, some were scrambling to fill their final application slots on Monday night, while others had spent months touring schools and studying for admissions tests.
The complicated process is the product of the city’s choice-based high school admissions system, which allows families to rank their top school preferences then sorts students based on a citywide algorithm. Not only do students have to sift through a 649-page directory, but schools have widely varying admissions requirements, which could include tests, interviews, and essays.
This week, we asked six teenagers to tell us how they made their choices.
A puzzling list: Jalen Andujar, an eighth grader at M.S. 61 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn
Top choice: Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn
When Jalen Andujar first laid eyes on the high school directory, his first thought was, “This is going to be really hard.”
He ended up listing schools that are extremely different, including the long-struggling Boys and Girls High School and the Beacon School in Manhattan, one of the city’s most selective high schools.
Andujar wants to play football and basketball, which pushed him toward Boys and Girls. His aunt who guided him through the application process also went to the Bedford-Stuyvesant school.
The way he ranked the schools virtually guarantees that he will end up at Boys and Girls, which has struggled to attract students and shrunk dramatically in recent years.
Also on his list: New Utrecht in Brooklyn
‘It’s hard’ in the Bronx: Dalizbeth Lopez, an eighth-grader at I.S. 224 in the South Bronx
Top choice: University Heights High School, a selective, well-regarded school in the South Bronx
On Monday night, Dalizbeth Lopez still had three schools left to select for her application, but she had already overcome the biggest hurdle: deciding to apply at all.
“It was sad,” Dalizbeth said about the first time she sat down with her mom to discuss high school. “I told her I didn’t feel like going to high school.”
Once her mom convinced her to take a closer look at schools, she cracked the “big book” and consulted the list of schools suggested by her guidance counselor.
As she searched, the most important qualities to her were the school’s graduation rate and safety, she said. With those criteria, she found it difficult to settle on a school close to home, she said.
“There’s a lot of good high schools, but it’s hard to find them here in the Bronx,” Dalizbeth said.
Also on her list: Hostos-Lincoln Academy of Science
High standards: Ananya Roy, an eighth-grader at East Side Middle School
Top choice: Bard High School Early College, a popular school on the Lower East Side that offers two years of college credit.
Ananya Roy, an eighth-grader at East Side Middle School on the Upper East Side, had the opposite problem.
“I had trouble because all these schools are really good,” Ananya said.
Ananya has spent the last few months taking tests, filling out online applications, writing essays and touring schools. She started to look at high schools during the summer after seventh grade, when she went to a seminar to help parents and students understand the high school application process. Before that, she started studying for the specialized high school tests with a tutor.
Ananya is looking for a school with a strong set of English and social studies classes. After emigrating from Bangladesh at age eight, she discovered a love for politics.
“I read the news a lot and, you know, just read in general,” she said. “Politics is always really interesting because there’s always two sides.”
Also on her list: Townsend Harris, Baruch College Campus
Searching for basketball: Bryan Abreu, eighth-grader at I.S. 224
Top choice: A. Philip Randolph High School, a large high school in Harlem
Bryan Abreu, who attends I.S. 224 in the South Bronx, said he chose high schools that “had a lot of programs.”
Mostly, he wanted a school with a good basketball program. He consulted his friends when deciding between schools and made sure his parents signed off on his choices, he said.
His favorite subject is technology, and when he leaves high school he wants to be able to “fix something,” he said.
Touring the city: Katherine Studt, an eighth-grader at East Side Middle School
Top choice: The Beacon School, a sought-after school in Hell’s Kitchen
Katherine Studt traveled all around the city touring schools with her dad this year. As she left the Upper East Side, she said it felt like the whole city opened up to her.
“Since I’m older now, there’s more places I can go,” she said. “I can go to Brooklyn. I can go to the Lower East Side, down to the west side.”
Katherine, who wants to be a lawyer, said she was looking for a school with a good learning environment, one that encourages teamwork, and has a good writing program.
She sometimes found it difficult to juggle schoolwork and admissions requirements, she said. But the slog through tests and applications hasn’t dampened her spirits about high school.
“Overall, it was kind of fun,” she said.
Also on her list: NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies, Eleanor Roosevelt
A fresh start: Zerina Caraballo, an eighth-grader at M.S. 2 in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn
Top choice: Preparatory Academy for Writers in Queens
As the third child in her family to go through the high school admissions process, Zerina Caraballo had a pretty good idea what was ahead of her.
Caraballo solely considered high schools in Queens, where her family lives, and prioritized schools that offered courses in forensic science, along with specific sports programs — basketball, cheerleading and gymnastics. After going to six different open houses, she rounded out her list with help from her mom, older sister, and brother.
“Most of my friends are going to be in Brooklyn, so it’s going to be a totally different start,” she said.
Also on her list: Francis Lewis, Hillcrest, and Forest Hills