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What We Know So Far: Applying to NYC Schools for 2022

Anywhere else in the country (the world?), the idea that New York City families start worrying about where their children will attend school over a full year in advance is considered insane.

But that’s when the official process starts here. NYC private schools put up their applications as early as August, but no later than the Tuesday after Labor Day. Some schools have already stopped taking petitions for admission in 2022. Many will halt right before Winter Break. The majority will close them by the end of the calendar year. 

Traditional and charter public schools launch a bit later but, in non-Covid years, middle and high school applications would usually be due by the first weekend in December, while Kindergarten applications opened in mid-December and were due by end of January. Universal Pre-K was the outlier, with ranking in the spring.

Last year all applications were pushed back by months, Covid being given as the excuse. Last year was supposed to have been an exception.

NYC parents fervently hoped that the Department of Education would have taken what they learned last year and applied it to this year, so that families wouldn’t need to be on tenterhooks.

NYC parents were fervently disappointed.

The Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), for incoming 9th and 10th graders applying to the city’s 8 Specialized High Schools, was moved from its traditional spot in the middle of October to early December.

That is the only information we’ve gotten so far. There is no word yet on how all other public high schools will accept students, whether they will be able to look at grades and test scores (if so, from which years?), whether geographic priority will be in effect (last year, the city announced they’d be removing them all but, this year, as per usual, Mayor Bill De Blasio is waffling in the face of pushback), and whether admissions will be a straight lottery, or a combination, where all students above a certain academic benchmark will be aggregated into tiers, then assigned random lottery numbers within those tiers.

It’s even more tenuous at the Arts schools, as no audition dates or criteria have yet been announced.

Last year, public high schools employed a variety of admissions methods. However, all public middle schools were unscreened, meaning it was a lottery for all.

As a result, many parents of high-achieving students were unhappy to see their children placed in middle and high schools where less than half the population was performing at grade level. Some were assigned to schools where less than a quarter was. 

Hundreds of families ended up scrambling over the summer for seats in Catholic, independent and charter schools, while many simply gave up and moved out of the city.

Last year, without a test to administer, 4-year-olds were placed in a Gifted & Talented Kindergarten lottery based on teacher recommendations.

This year, the G&T program is no longer taking new students at any grade level. Families, however, can still apply for zoned, unzoned, and Dual Language Kindergarten programs.

So what can parents nervous about their child’s educational opportunities come September 2022 do?

Some may choose to move into “good” school zones. (This only applies to elementary schools, as only some middle schools are zoned and it’s extremely likely that no high school will be.)

Others may apply to high-performing charter schools.

Still others will try their luck at private schools, understanding that those schools notify acceptance much earlier than public schools do (even in non-Covid years). If you accept a spot at a private school, you will need to sign a contract and pay a deposit. Eventually, you may be required to pay a full year’s tuition before you know where your child has been accepted for public school. Even if you decide not to attend, you may not get your money back.

A tiny number may get lucky and gain admission into a highly selective, free option like the Special Music School or Hunter College Elementary and High School.

Others may follow the national trend and give home-schooling a whirl. 

The silver lining from all of the above uncertainty is that there were families who only remained in the NYC public school system for the G&T programming, the screened middle schools (and honors programs within), and the selective high schools.

With those options no longer on the table, a large number of families have left town. Meaning that, for the first time in decades, some of NYC’s most coveted schools actually had openings for out of zone students last year.

Working the waitlist is always an option — for those willing to white-knuckle it up until the first day of school, and sometimes even beyond.

There is also the Hail Mary hope that incoming Mayor Eric Adams will undo all of De Blasio’s edicts. But whether that will happen quickly enough for 2022 admissions is yet to be seen.

Stay tuned – as soon as we know anything, you’ll know!

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