You’ve done your work. You’ve excelled as a student. You’ve put yourself in position for that next right of passage: getting into the high school of your choice. Now, there’s only one hurdle to climb—one exam that can open new doors for you, and help you specialize before college.
This blog is dedicated to help you leap that hurdle by answering all of the questions you have about the New SHSAT. You’ll get inside information about how to prepare for the test, how to read with a purpose and how to increase the chances for a correct answer even when you’re not 100% certain of your choice.
Here, you will gain insight into the questions you have about the New SHSAT, starting with the basics about what the test is, if it’s difficult, and logistics (like how to register for the test and where to take it). Later, we’ll move to looking at each section of the test. We’ll break down how the exam writers put the test together, so you’ll attack the test with confidence.
First, the basics.
What are Specialized High Schools?
New York is unique among cities for many reasons, but for 8th-graders, New York has developed a path to enter specialized high schools that allow students to specialize in certain areas before they enter college. There is a separate admissions process for these schools, and admission is not guaranteed. Although any 8th-grader who lives in New York City (prior to November 1st of their 8th grade year) can apply, each school is looking for students who are—like each school—unique. Students who shine artistically or musically, who set themselves apart from other students academically, or who bring intellectual and cultural diversity to campus are the best candidates to enter these schools.
What this means is that, even though these schools provide students with a top-tier education. these schools are designed for students who are set apart from other students in lots of ways. It isn’t true that only students with perfect grades get admitted. Instead, students who are English Language Learners, students with an Individualized Education Plan, or students who learn in non-traditional ways are encouraged to apply. In fact, the exam’s new format is meant to increase the number of students who take the exam and to boost admission at these specialized high schools for a diverse contingent of students.
This is great news for you! New York City wants students at these special schools that reflects the population that lives there—NYC is, after all, one of the most creative, insightful, visionary, cultural, and historical cities in the world! Who should be taking the new SHSAT? YOU! Who is unique, talented, and offers something to these specialized high schools that no one else can? YOU! With ArgoPrep work, dedicated study, and diligence, who is positioned for admission into their dream high school? YOU!
Why would I want to go to a Specialized High School?
There are two main benefits to going to a specialized high school. The first is that you’ll get to take courses in the areas that you love already. Many 8th-graders are already emerging talents academically and artistically, and these schools allow you to train more extensively in those areas. (You’ll still take all of the core high school classes that all high school students take, but your elective credits at specialized high schools are geared towards the schools’ specializations.)
You also can get a college-preparatory experience. Although many high schools now are offering dual credit, IB, and AP credit courses, many of the classes taught at specialized high schools are designed to mimic the college experience. The goal is to intensively prepare students for their next step—some of these high schools are even housed in New York universities!
What specializations are there?
Each school specializes in something different. If you are an artist or a musician, Fiorello H. Laguardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts develops your skills in dance, drama, instrumental or vocal music, and technical theatre. If you’re excellent at what we call “STEM” (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math), think about The Bronx High School of Science, the High School for Mathematics, Science, and Engineering at the City College of New York, or Queens High School for the Sciences at York College. Maybe your talents are in the humanities. You should think about applying to either the High School of American Studies at Lehman College or to The Brooklyn Latin School, where all classes emphasize writing, oral communication, and critical thinking. Two other schools, Staten Island Technical High School and Stuyvesant High School attract students with a range of interests in STEM and the Humanities. Staten Island offers a Career and Technical Education program, and three years of Russian language instruction. Stuyvesant is known for allowing students to explore across fields of study, and even to explore individualized research projects for credit.
How do I get in?
You’ll have to take the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT), because all of the schools (except for one) base admission entirely on your score on the exam. The only school that does not require the SHSAT is LaGuardia High School, which bases admissions on your academic record and a required audition in a talent area.
What about if you didn’t do as well as you wanted in some of your middle school classes? What if want these schools to know you are more than your report card? Guess what? You *are* more—and you get a shot to show that! Admission into 8 of these schools is only based on your SHSAT exam score. So, get pumped for this test! Start putting in the hard work, show your New York grit, and prep daily for the new SHSAT to land that high score!