Thinking about applying to Hunter College Elementary School? Here’s everything you need to know about the laborious application process. Photo: Ben Mullins on Unsplash

Hunter College Elementary School will open its application for September 2024 in late August 2023. Or maybe in September 2023. Even the official website doesn’t seem to know for sure. 

So while HCES scrambles to figure out what will be happening in the fall, we’re here to give families a head start on the process.

What Hunter College Elementary School is… and what it isn’t

  • HCES is not a public school. It is not governed by the Department of Education, does not follow NY State’s curriculum, is not subject to the public kindergarten admissions process, or required to jump at the whims of various mayoral administrations. For parents who are committed to sending their child to public school, HCES does not fit the bill. HCES is instead a publicly funded school, run by money provided by the state. Parents do not pay tuition. (Though there is a charge for the testing process). It is more akin to a charter school.
  • HCES is not a diverse school. Despite repeated claims of trying their best to rectify the situation, most notably by opening admissions to all five boroughs, HCES was 53% white, 14% Asian, 7% Black and 3% Hispanic in 2013. Five years later, the school was projecting an incoming kindergarten class of 22% Hispanic and 14% Black students, in a school system where 41% of students are Hispanic and 23% Black. For parents who are committed to supporting diversity, HCES does not fit the bill.

So what, then, is Hunter College Elementary School? 

It describes itself as a school for “children who have been identified as intellectually talented… Our curriculum is characterized by high expectations and designed to facilitate the development of students’ creative and critical-thinking skills… We prepare our students to be life-long learners, leaders and thinkers.” Of NYC’s top-10-ranked high-schools, Hunter is the only one that begins in Kindergarten, sparing its students the grueling public middle and high school application process. 

How to get into Hunter College Elementary School: first round

As soon as the kindergarten application opens in either late August or early September, parents may go online and request to be sent one. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Once you have requested the application, you will have three weeks to schedule an appointment with an HCES-approved psychologist who will administer a modified Stanford-Binet IQ test to your child for a fee of $375. HCES will not accept results from any outside tester. 
  • The date on which your child takes the test matters. The test is scored in two-month bands, based on your child’s birthday. It is optimal for them to be on the older end of the band, rather than on the younger. Click here for more information and a calculator to help determine your child’s optimal test date. 
  • Do not request the application until it is three weeks before the optimal test date. You cannot ask for an application, then schedule your child’s test two months later.
  • HCES only accepts kindergarteners whose birthdays fall between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 of the calendar year they turn five. You may not “hold back” your child and have them tested the following year, intending to start them in kindergarten at age 6.
  • HCES writes (in bold!) that it “strongly discourages exposing children to the Stanford Binet V prior to the formal administration of the test for the purpose of admission to HCES.” This means no prepping. I have been working in school admissions for almost 20 years. I have never had a client accepted to HCES who did not do some sort of prep, whether with workbooks, through a testing center or via a private tutor. Tips for how you can prepare your child at home, below:

YouTube video

How to get into Hunter College Elementary School: second round

When admission was open to Manhattan preschoolers only, about 3,000 aspirants would apply and roughly 300 would qualify for the second round. Now that applications are available to all boroughs, expect the initial number to keep rising. Nonetheless, the second round is still limited to about 300 finalists. 

Previously, parents were sent their child’s score. For the past few years, however, HCES only notified families whether or not their child made the cut, with no accountability.

If your son or daughter qualifies for the second round, they will be invited to come to the school for a “playgroup” visit. In addition, you will be asked to fill out a Parent Evaluation form. This is, by far, the least important part of the process. HCES will believe their own eyes when they observe your child over anything you may write (primarily because parents don’t have the frame of reference to know if their child is truly above average, and because parents, um, lie). They will also give more weight to the Teacher Evaluation form, so don’t stress this too much! It’s unlikely that anything you write will be the thing that gets your child in — or keeps them out.

Decision day

Although approximately 300 children qualify for the second round, only 25 boys and 25 girls are admitted, with 12 boys and 12 girls being placed on a waitlist. The waitlist is held up through second grade. The next Hunter entry point is high school, which, for them, begins in seventh grade.

If your child is offered admission to HCES, there is nothing to lose by giving it a try. If you don’t like it, you can always leave and transfer to your zoned school, a G&T program, a charter school or a private school. Unless you were waitlisted, you cannot transfer into HCES at any point except seventh grade. 

And families do leave. No school is perfect and no school is one-size-fits-all. Some leave because the school is too easy. Some leave because the school is too hard. Some leave because the child can’t handle not being at the top of the class. Some leave because the parents are the ones who can’t handle it. 

In the end, HCES is just one more option in a city where, so far, we are lucky to have many

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.