NYC high school admissions are not for the faint of heart. Photo: Sam Balye

Anyone living in NYC knows that high school admissions is not for the faint of heart. 
So, we spoke with a few eighth grade parents to see what the high school admissions process was like for them. 

Jean Shering’s daughter Anna began preparing for high school admissions last year while she was in the seventh grade. She started with the DOE’s DREAM program, which is a Saturday and summer academic program that prepares eligible eighth grade students for the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). They also attended Catholic school open houses, but were unable to see any public schools in-person due to Covid-19.

For Catholic school admissions, students must take the Test for Admission into Catholic High Schools (TACH). The test was at-home, and Jean said it was nerve-wracking. Her daughter had some technical issues with the test, which stopped working for a few stressful moments. Jean also had to take off work because it was Friday during the day.

This school year they were able to visit some public school open houses, but still had a better experience with Catholic schools. “Anna went to spend a day at a few Catholic schools. I wish the public schools would do this,” Jean shared. Many Catholic schools offer shadow or student-for-a-day options to prospective applicants to experience attending that school for a day. Jean and Anna also attended the high school fair at Anna’s current middle school.

Anna ultimately got into her first choice public school, but the family decided on one of the Catholic schools that she applied to. “We liked the school that Anna picked. But I wasn’t confident that the other schools in the building were safe, especially being that many of the afterschool programs and activities are school-wide.”

Jean found that for the most part, the Catholic schools were well organized. They received the acceptance letters in January but unfortunately the deadline to accept was right before the public school acceptance letters went out. Jean had to fork out $1,200 to secure her daughter’s seat at her school choice, which she says she would not have gotten back if she decided to go with public school.

Melisa Rivera had a similar experience to Jean. Her son Justin also got accepted into the DREAM program, but the family made the decision not to go for it because only one of the specialized high schools was in a location that Melissa was comfortable with her son commuting to from their home in the Bronx. Quality schools with a safe commute played a large factor in their high school application process, which Melissa says left minimal options.

Melissa and her son attended open houses this school year at Justin’s top picks for public schools, along with three Catholic school open houses and a high school fair at his current middle school. She said that the middle school’s open house, “felt like a dud. The school needs to expand their horizons with the [high] schools in attendance. They need more outreach.”

Most Catholic school deadlines are before public school acceptances are even sent, adding to the stress. Photo: Ben Mullins

Justin also took the TACHS exam and ended up getting into all three Catholic schools that he applied for. The school they ultimately decided on was one that Justin loved after attending the open house, and that had a commute both he and his mom were comfortable with.

Overall, Melissa says she feels like public schools can learn a lot from the Catholic school process. As someone who attended public schools herself, she was never a big fan of Catholic schools, but felt they were much more personable throughout the process. Also, she feels that the counselors at middle schools could do better. “The counselor at his school just pushed for the local high schools when there is an entire city of amazing schools. I feel like if you’re not someone who really has the time to do the legwork, you might end up putting your kid in a school where they don’t reach their full potential. The DOE should do a better job at equipping guidance counselors.”

Melissa also didn’t like the fact that the deadline to accept the Catholic school offer fell before public school letters went out. She, like Jean, wasn’t willing to risk Justin not getting accepted into his top choice, so she paid the $650 fee. “They probably pocket a lot of money from parents who end up going to public school,” she said.

While Catholic schools have long been an option for parents unhappy with NYC’s public school choices, they are not excluded from their own problems. Twelve additional Catholic schools shut down after the current 2022-23 year due in large to lower enrollment following the pandemic.

Luisa Geronimo’s daughter Danellys also recently completed the high school admissions process. Danellys was accepted into her fourth choice, but Luisa was relieved. “I let her put her top three picks which were schools in the Bronx, but I didn’t want her in the Bronx. I wanted her to experience something else.”

Luisa said that she enjoyed attending the open houses and that the process showed her how much education options have changed and advanced since she went through the process herself. She also likes that schools now offer more programs — it’s not just the specialized high schools that offer a plethora of options.

Although offers have already gone out, if your eighth grader got waitlisted or doesn’t have an offer, the DOE is hosting several upcoming live virtual information sessions this week.

Below are the upcoming sessions:

March 15, 6 to 7 p.m. Event held in Spanish.

Join us on Zoom by clicking here at the event’s start time.    

Webinar ID: 937 7960 7510

Or call in at: + 16465588656| Phone Conference ID: 93779607510#

Passcode: 123456#

March 17, 2 to 3 p.m.  Event held in English.

For Bengali interpretation, call +1 347-966-4114| Phone Conference ID: 560 873 189#

For Korean interpretation, call +1 347-966-4114| Phone Conference ID: 218 109 152#

For Russian interpretation, call +1 347-966-4114| Phone Conference ID: 705 997 279#

March 21, 6 to 7 p.m. Event held in Chinese (Mandarin)

Join us on Zoom by clicking here at the event’s start time.    

Webinar ID: 937 7960 7510

Or call in at: + 16465588656| Phone Conference ID: 93779607510#

Passcode: 123456#

March 22, 6 to 7 p.m. Event held in English

For Haitian Creole interpretation, call +1 347-966-4114|Phone Conference ID: 569 222 068#

For Spanish interpretation, call +1 347-966-4114|Phone Conference ID: 744 890 30#

For Urdu interpretation, call +1 347-966-4114| Phone Conference ID: 226 448 904#

If you’re unable to make any of the live sessions, a captioned recording will be posted on by the end of the month.

Nicole Perrino is the founder of, a hyperlocal website for Bronx families where she use her influence to celebrate the beauty that the Bronx has to offer. In addition to her role at Bronxmama,...

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.