This fall, eighth graders will dive into the complicated process of applying to public high schools — and for some of them, it will require an audition.
Damiah Nolasco hopes to attend the city’s best-known performing arts high school — LaGuardia. And to prepare, she took part in a free boot camp at Lincoln Center this summer, where she and other students in the vocal studio practiced their fundamentals.
“They also teach us a few songs and we experiment with them — like do it faster, do it slower, or do it in harmony or in the round, and it’s really cool to do that kind of stuff,” Nolasco said.
The boot camp also works with visual artists, actors, musicians and dancers. It’s aimed at getting students comfortable with the process of an arts audition.
“The dance students have to participate in a ballet and a modern class,” said Dacia Washington, associate director of the education department at Lincoln Center. “Following choreography is one thing, but then they also have to choreograph a piece of their own.”
The program left Nolasco feeling more prepared.
“I'm still nervous, but I feel like I'm going to do well, because this was preparing me very well,” Nolasco said.
Priority admission is given to students from lower income schools or families.
“Many of our students, as far as I know, do not have access to private lessons and some of the advantages that other students have when they are preparing for high school auditions,” Washington said.
Even for students who don’t have to audition, the high school application process is intense, and students with more financial resources are often better prepared. Students must rank 12 high school choices, which often have different application requirements.
Maurice Frumkin is a former city Department of Education employee who now runs a consulting agency that helps families apply to schools.
“It’s a double-edged sword, no question about it — you’ve got a tremendous amount of choice, but at the same time it becomes incumbent on families to do their homework and get the support necessary to make the right choices and know how to navigate the process,” Frumkin said.
And last year’s application process was marred by last-minute changes and confusion.
In the past, screened schools simply ranked students top-down. Last year, students with a wider range of grades were put in the same pool, and then selected at random.
“Obviously some people love that, some people hate it. I think that it’s safe to say that most people want pretty significant changes from the way things worked last year — it was a mess,” Frumkin said.
City Schools Chancellor David Banks says he intends to make changes to the process — after getting feedback from parents. The DOE says it expects to share more information on admissions this September.