• 19 June 2024
An Inside Look at NYC School Admissions: Creating Your List

An Inside Look at NYC School Admissions: Creating Your List

Jul 01, 2018

On May 22nd, Clark attended “Sip and Learn: High School Admissions” hosted by New York admissions expert Whitney Shashou of Admit NY and Private Prep NYC partner Zack Gilman. In last week’s post, we covered the first steps a family should take before beginning the application process.

Once a family has framed their mindset to search for the best fit school rather than the most prestigious and are on board with creating a small, thoughtful list, it’s time to move forward and finally begin creating their ideal school application list.

How Do I Do It?

With so many options available, it can feel daunting to begin the task of not only narrowing your list down to three to five schools, but the three to five best fit schools, or as Admit NY refers to them as: “Your A+ Fits”. Deciding which schools a student should apply to requires introspection, research, and communication from each member involved in the process.

If you’re wondering how to eliminate hundreds of NYC schools and create an optimal list, then you’re in luck – Whitney and Zack broke down the best ways to research a school and determine if it’s a good fit for your child.


No matter how overwhelming the school admissions process can be, Whitney reveals that there is a positive side to it – each admissions season requires families to step back and think critically about what’s important to them, how they’ve changed, and what the student needs to reach their full potential.

Families can begin their journey of self-evaluation by working through a few questions. Thinking critically about optimal learning styles, environment, and community can give families valuable insight on the types of schools they should be in search of.

Here’s a list of questions we compiled that both Whitney and Zack recommend parents and students work through together.

1. Do grades and test scores align with this school’s academic profile?
While the answer to this question shouldn’t necessarily be the deciding factor of whether it’s on your list, students do need to be an academic fit wherever they enroll.

2. Will this school challenge and support my child in the way that they need?
Every school is different, as are the needs of every child. It’s important to look for schools that strike the perfect balance of challenge and support – an equation that varies by child. One student may require more challenge and less support, while another requires the opposite. The institution, the faculty, and the student body should all be evaluated to see if they can match the needs of the student.

3. What qualities does my child possess that help them thrive?
Every child has an ideal learning environment. Open vs. closed floor plans, built in office hours, level of teacher guidance during instruction, more collaborative and/or independent work, and even typical noise levels all vary across different schools. Understanding where in that mix a student prospers can help families narrow their list.

4. How does my child process and learn information?
Schools tend to label their academic efforts as “traditional” or “progressive,” but those aren’t catchall phrases. The spectrum that exists between the two is vast, so seek out those that compliment how a student best learns.

5. Does this school support my child’s skills, goals, and interests?

Families should determine whether a school offers any extracurricular clubs, athletic teams, or unique academic subjects or programs that a student is interested in.

6. How do my child and I align with this school’s community?
There is a delicate balance between catering to a student and a parent. The importance of community-fit varies for individual families, so understanding what parents and students are looking for can help families find the right schools in which to apply.

Families can certainly go beyond these questions to further evaluate what is important to them and what a student needs, but going through the above six will give families a strong start and sense of what the right-fit school will offer.

In-Person Viewings

After families have begun self-evaluating and crossing schools off their list, they can begin to look more closely into schools that seemingly match what they’re looking for.

Visiting open houses or school tours are great opportunities to get an in-depth look at the campus, community, and academics. However, Whitney and Zack warn that it’s important to remember that these are carefully curated versions of a school, and that families are only getting a look at the school’s best students, classes, and overall appearance.

In order to get a genuine sense of community, Whitney recommends checking the school out when they’re not worried about impressing potential candidates. Sports games, pick-up and drop-off, school plays, or community fundraisers are all great opportunities to view how students, staff, and parents all interact after school hours.

Don’t Miss the Details

While the information handed out by schools are great sources of information, families can learn more about their values in a few unexpected places.

Whitney and Zack both recommend looking carefully at the school application. Often, the questions and essay prompts can give applicants an idea of what aspects are most important to that school. Families can also reach out to those who were or are enrolled in that school, but it’s important not to let other people’s opinions become your own. One person’s experience may be vastly different from another’s.

Finally, the support of experts like those at Admit NY can guide families through the admissions process. Because their job is to know virtually everything about the NYC school landscape, they can help families create their optimal list.

Next Up: The Application

Once a family has created their list, it’s time to get serious about applications.

Check out the third and final installment of our School Admissions series next week, when we break down the school application process.

Though choosing such a small number of schools to apply to can seem impossible, it provides an opportunity for students and their families to step back and evaluate what they want, what’s important to them, and what they need to reach their goals.