NEW YORK CITY, U.S.A. It might seem commonplace for middle school students to attend their local high school. In New York City, however, there is more to the high school application process. In the quest to break down the gist of the NYC high school application process, ROOSTERGNN conducted an exclusive interview with Sandy Kallen, Director of Admissions, and Kristine Chandler, Placement Coordinator at The Geneva School of Manhattan.

What makes New York City unique when it comes to going to high school?

Kristine Chandler: New York City is very unique when it comes to high school admissions. It is very competitive and it can be challenging to get into a great school. While most of the students in the country (who attend public schools) go from simply attending the closet junior high in their township to attending the closest high school, this is not so in New York city.  Unless a student is at an ongoing school, eighth graders in NYC must apply to high school; there is no automatic or default transferring from a separate public Junior high to a public high school. It is also unusual in that many students are willing to take on a commute of considerable distance from home in order to go to a high school.

What are the different kinds of high schools in NYC?

K. Chandler: It depends on how you want to categorize schools. There are general public high schools (some of which are screened, meaning that schools have set various preconditions or requirements for admission) there are also specialized public high schools, charter high schools, private schools and parochial schools. All of these schools have different admissions processes, so this can be overwhelming at first to New York City families!

What makes some NYC schools some of the best schools in the country?

Sandy Kallen: Rankings for schools usually have to do with what colleges seniors matriculate to. According to a survey which came out in 2010, The Trinity School (located in the upper west side of Manhattan) had more students attend Ivy League Schools than any other Private or Public school in the country, making them the top ranking school in the country.

What makes some NYC schools some of the best schools in the country?  

K. Chandler: Although each school is different, the majority of high schools are very intense academically, setting very high standards.  Many parents want an education like this for their children. Families are often told by admissions directors to expect approximately three hours of homework every night! Not only that, but there are a good number of high schools that offer programs that are one of a kind, relating to specialized interests in that student body.

What kind of students do the private schools and public schools want respectively?

S. Kallen: Similar to college, High schools want intellectually curious, bright, motivated students with great grades, good standardized test scores, and extra-curricular or outside passions. Often a legacy will help.

How much do private schools cost and how can families afford them?

S. Kallen: Families can apply for Financial Aid and because of the high cost of living in NYC a higher percentage with a higher income level will qualify for aid. Some families with a higher income that would not receive financial aid in another state in the country would qualify for aid in New York because of the higher cost of living.

How much do private schools cost and how can families afford them?
K. Chandler: There is a great range of cost, generally anywhere from 20,000-42,000 per year. Some families in the city can afford this, but a good number of students need scholarships and financial aid.  Many families are only looking at public schools for this reason.

Are the private schools in NYC worth the money and effort?

S. Kallen: In my opinion some of the best public schools are superior in education to some of the best private schools, it all depends, and often depends on what a child puts into his or her experience, as with most experiences. As a whole the specialized high schools and most private High Schools in Manhattan are doing an excellent job training students, partly because they need to compete at the college level with their seniors heading into the admissions process (competing on a more global and international level). In my opinion, the middle and lower schools seem to be falling behind in terms of quality education. I believe the progressive model for education is the reason for this.

What makes the NYC high school application process one of the most stressful in the country for both the parents and students?  

S. Kallen: Depending on how the parents and kids enter into the process, can determine the stress level. If two parents work outside of the home, it puts added pressure on parents to have to take time off of work to visit schools during day-time hours when many open houses happen. If there is more flexibility in the home, the process can actually be quite fun. It can be very interesting visiting a wide range of schools in multiple boroughs and if your child enjoys meeting and talking with adults the interview process can also be very encouraging. I think most parents biggest fear is that their child will not be accepted into a school that that will equip their child for college. Narrowing down which schools to apply to may be part of the biggest stress. Also, most applications come with many writing supplements adding more pressure for everyone during an already stressful time. Overall, it is a great chance for parents to spend time with their middle-schoolers and get to know their likes and dislikes. It can be a very interesting and rewarding time.