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High school applications, for both public and private schools, can feel daunting for even the most prepared New York City parents. At Breakthrough New York, we help families navigate the complex process. Here are some tips to set your middle school student up for success during the high school admissions process and beyond.
Keep records: Many middle schools have only one counselor for hundreds of students, so be sure to keep copies of your child’s report cards and school records in the event of paperwork delays. This step is especially important if your student is exploring independent and boarding schools, because they might have different application deadlines than public schools.
Research high school options strategically: The New York City Department of Education offers a database that includes information about every public high school in the city. This availability does not mean you must research all 435 schools. Even if you just have one school in mind, identify qualities or programs within that school that appeal to your student and use those criteria to find similar schools to consider.
Be open-minded: The “best” school might not be the best fit for your child. A school with name recognition and a student body of 3,000 might be overwhelming for someone who prefers a more intimate learning environment. At Breakthrough New York, we help families find high schools that are suited to the talents and interests of their individual child, and we encourage all parents to take a similar approach. Nearly half of Breakthrough students identify as Black or Latino, groups that are underrepresented in specialized, boarding and parochial schools, so we also help students to explore those options.
Cultivate autonomy: In high school, students are quickly thrust into a world where a certain level of independence is expected. Encourage self-sufficiency to help your child thrive in the face of these changes. Students who have experience navigating the subway, preparing their own lunches and sending their own emails will be better equipped to juggle the academic and social challenges of high school life.
Prepare for more than just the test: Although preparing for standardized tests is undoubtedly important, don’t forget to help your child build social and conversational skills. Research shows that family dinners have myriad benefits, and they also present an opportunity to spark a deeper dialogue, beyond the day-to-day. Whether you discuss news articles, books or politics, these conversation skills will be invaluable for high school admissions and job interviews.
Although tackling high school admissions is overwhelming, if you approach this time with these tips in mind, you will find it becomes more manageable. Best of all, the lessons and skills your child gains throughout this process will continue to serve them in the years to come.
Joshua Baquedano is a site coordinator at Breakthrough New York’s Bronx location. Breakthrough New York transforms the lives of talented kids from low-income backgrounds by providing educational support from middle school through college