How to Apply to Middle School in NYC

A unique part of the US school system is middle school, aka junior high, which covers grades 6 through 8, after your child has graduated from elementary school. In this post, we look at how to apply to middle school in NYC, focusing on public schools, with valuable tips from AWNY mums who have been through the process.

Overview and Resources
Your child applies for middle school when they are in 5th grade. The NYC Department of Education (DOE) website explains the applications process in-depth.

Check the DOE site for specific dates. The general timeline is:

  • Sep – Nov: Attend admission events
  • Oct: If applying for specialized programs, submit the Request for Testing (RFT)
  • Oct: Applications open – receive your Middle School Application Form
  • Dec: Submit your completed Middle School Application Form
  • Jan – Feb: Additional assessment and interviews take place, if applying to specialized programs, or if the middle school you are applying to requires an interview
  • Mar: Students receive their offer letter including weightlisted programs

apply to public middle school New York

Admission Events
Many parents find middle school fairs, open houses and school tours a valuable part of their research.  These are usually organized by the elementary school your child attends and the middle schools you are applying to.  These events include information sessions on the application process (conducted by your child’s elementary school) and open-houses and tours of the middle schools.  

Tours can include sit-down presentations and full walk throughs, and you should come prepared with any questions you have about the school, their philosophy, format, systems and values.  Notice the children, and how they are interacting.  How would you describe the mood of the environment?  Might it be a match for the needs of your child? Each school tour is structured a little differently.

If you attend a fair, be sure to sign in at the school’s table.  Similarly, if you attend a school tour, also sign in.  For programs that use a Limited Unscreened Admissions Method (see the Middle School Admissions Guide, which will be available Sep 2019 for further definitions), signing in will increase your chances of being matched with that program.

Program Choices & Admission Policies
An essential part of determining which schools are a good fit for your child, is understanding the schools they are eligible for and the specific criteria they use to select students.  You can read more about NYC middle school choices and admission factors in our follow up post. You can also find comprehensive information about this in the Middle School Admissions Guide (available Sep 2019 from the DOE).

Middle School Application Form
All 5th grade students at NYC public schools receive a Middle School Application Form in October.  Your child will receive this form from the current elementary school they attend.

You submit a completed application form in December at the current elementary school your child attends. The application form asks parents to rank up to 12 middle schools in order of preference, though most people choose and rank their top 3.

Notification Letters
Notification letters are sent out in March and you’ll be advised which program your child has been matched with.  These will be sent to the student’s home address, not their elementary school. Included in the letter is a list of programs your child has been weightlisted for.

Charter Schools
Charter schools manage their own admissions process so you must contact them directly to apply.

New Residents
If you move to NYC during the school year, you can apply to middle school by visiting a family welcome centre or your zoned middle school school, should you wish to apply there.

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Advice from AWNY Mums
“The most helpful information I got was from talking to other parents who have kids at those schools.  I learned about the culture, academic and homework expectations, views about teacher quality and general ‘vibe’ of a school community.” – Charlene

“I would have asked more questions to my school guidance counselor, and pushed to have more specific information, and also, I would have started the process earlier.” – Krista

“It’s genuinely not as stressful as it sounds.  Most parents at our school who were first time middle school applicants were pretty worried when the process started, but said afterwards that it really wasn’t that bad.” – Charlene

“Don’t panic if you don’t get into your first choice.  My stepdaughter went to some really mediocre schools, but she graduated from Hunter college, is now a social worker and is preparing to get her Masters’ degree.  School choice isn’t the be all and end all. Perseverance, determination and character also play a major part in academic success.” – Lou

“It was important to us to tour the physical space, listen to the Principals and get a sense of the classrooms and other students.  Even those which are rated highly might be too small, too big, or somehow not right for your child.” – JS

“I found the school tours very informative because they all included extensive presentations from students currently attending that school and the 5th graders had the opportunity to ask the students questions.  The school culture was evident when observing how the students presented their school, the responses to the many questions they were asked, and most importantly, how well the middle school students interacted with each other and the 5th graders during the presentations.” – Joanna

More Information
Check out our follow up post on NYC Middle School Choices and Admission Factors. To connect with other Australian mums familiar with applying to NYC Middle School, join the Aussie Mums & Dads in New York Facebook Group.

A big thank you to the following AWNY Mums who contributed to this article:

  • Charlene*, from Perth who works and lives in NYC with her 3 children.
  • Joanna, from Sydney who has recently gone through the public middle school application process.
  • JS, from Sydney, who has 2 kids and relocated to NYC for work.
  • Krista, from Sydney, who lives in the USA with her French husband and American daughter.
  • Lou, from Melbourne, who owns a bar in Bushwick with her husband.

* pseudonym at request of contributor

Author: Angela Tohl

Adelaide-born Angela came to New York in search of the ultimate adventure, by way of Australia and Japan. She juggles technical and copywriting projects, with chasing her kids around (usually on roller skates). Find Angela on Twitter @angelatohl and at Image credit: Susie Lang

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