NEW YORK—Eighth-graders and their parents descended on Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Campus near Lincoln Center Sunday, narrowing down their list of prospective high schools amid the competitive environment of high school admissions.
Every eighth-grader in the city must apply for high school. Some students know what they want to learn—for example, performing arts—thus having an automatic filter. For others, the wealth of options means narrowing down a specific school can be difficult.
“All the schools are good,” said Shenee Zambrano, sitting next to her mother outside the fair. “I don’t know which to pick.”
Yet some schools are better than others. The nine specialized high schools are recognized as high-level, and after these come others that are also highly sought after.
Ava Demayo has schools on her wish list from both of these categories. Demayo and her grandmother Mary talked with representatives, including students, from one of her top choices, Eleanor Roosevelt High School.
“I learned that if you have good grades, you have good attendance, and you’re just an overall good student, they‘ll take a real good look at you and you’ll be a prime candidate,” the younger Demayo said.
A main draw for Ava is early college integration. Students at Eleanor Roosevelt can get college credits. Manhattan/Hunter Science High School, which she discovered at the fair, even has a senior year program at Hunter College.
“That’s even cooler because you’re actually living the college life even though you’re not in college,” Ava said.
A potential downside to the process is intense competition to get into the top schools. Prospective students take a specialized test for the specialized high schools, and do other work such as writing essays and compiling portfolios of their schoolwork for other schools.
“It’s like trying to get into Harvard,” Mary said. “That’s what it feels like.”
A similar but more subdued process takes place for middle-school admissions. The Demayos felt Ava was wronged when none of her four middle-school choices accepted her, causing her to be placed in another school, West Prep Academy. Through an appeal Ava was able to avoid what her grandmother said was a violent environment and go to Mott Hall II, which has suited her well.
“Now the whole process is starting again for high school,” Mary said.