Open (Admissions) Season

Open (Admissions) Season

Admission season is officially underway for Chicago public, private, and parochial schools. Even though 8th grade began just over a month ago, now is the time to begin planning for high school next fall. It’s important to get an early start on investigating, visiting, and applying to schools. While in most cases, application deadlines are not until December, many schools, especially the most selective, have admissions processes that go well beyond just submitting an application. Here is a quick rundown of things to know about applying.

Students can now apply to Chicago Public Schools, including selective enrollment, magnet, International Baccalaureate, and open enrollment schools. Before you can get started on those applications though, you first must request a PIN.  Your PIN, which CPS will send you in the mail, works like your digital signature for all applications. Once you have it, you can apply online. Is it really that simple? Actually, no. Depending on which schools you’re child is applying to, there may be multiple applications to fill out because the single app CPS touted for this year has been delayed until next year) and additional admission requirements. For example, to qualify to apply to selective enrollment, magnet, and IB schools, your child must have scored stanines of at least 5 (in some cases 7) in both reading comprehension and total math on his/her 7th grade standardized test. New this year, current CPS students will be mailed a letter outlining the schools and programs for which they are eligible.  If your child is interested in selective enrollment or IB, once CPS confirms that your child is eligible, he/she will be assigned a selective enrollment test date or IB interview date.  Also new this year, CPS is beginning selective enrollment testing on November 17, almost a month sooner than last year. Because of this change, it may be in your child’s best interest to apply closer to the application deadline, on December 14, in order to be assigned a later test date, preferably in December or January. Thus allowing for more prep time if needed. While magnet schools and schools with magnet programs don’t require testing for admission, some have unique applications and requirements. Finally, charter schools, while public, each have their own application and lottery process. It’s best to check with individual schools to find out exactly what is required.

Private and parochial schools handle admissions in a much more personal way. In both cases, the process generally begins with a parent tour or Coffee. This is a first chance to get to know the school and the admissions team. In many cases, these schools also hold open houses suitable for students as well. Both of these options are important in the overall process, and should not be missed. Many independent schools require entrance exams, like the ISEE. Parents need to schedule testing on their own, and should check with each school to find out the deadline to submit scores. In the meantime, online applications are usually due at the beginning of December, however, some schools do have rolling admissions. Later in the process, families may be invited for an interview, and students may be asked to complete a writing sample. The most selective Catholic schools also have an entrance exam, the HSPT. This year the test will be given on Saturday, January 12. Students must take the test at the school they want to attend, meaning students can only submit one application to Archdiocese high schools. Further application information is given on the day of the test. Finally, don’t forget to schedule your child’s shadow days at private and parochial schools. This is the best way to get a sense of what the schools are actually like on a normal school day. Lastly, be sure to check our calendar for up to date info on tours, open houses, testing, and application dates. It’s really important to plan ahead. In many cases, there is only one open house date, especially at the most competitive schools, and you don’t want to miss them! Also, CPS will not be holding their Options for Knowledge high school fair this year, making getting to know CPS schools a bit more difficult, and those open house dates all the more important. You can still download the Options for Knowledge guide online later this month. As always, send any questions or concerns to me at or 312.493.4983.

Happy school hunting!