NYC high school admissions – opportunity and stress for teens.

When I read the article “‘I’m just a little bit angsty’: New York City students talk about what makes them nervous about high school,” I thought about my own, simple high school enrollment experience growing up in Arizona. I would go to the school closest to my home, which was Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe. I registered and bought my books before classes began – and that was it. Many schoolmates from elementary and junior high school would go there as well, so I would know many people in my classes on the first day of school. That was it – I wouldn’t make a major “personal future” decision until it was time to apply to colleges.

In New York City, students follow an application process, and can select 12 choices for high school attendance. Depending on which schools a student selects, they may be required to take specific tests, meet GPA requirements, and interview at the high schools before admission decisions will be made (Robinson, 2016). The process is similar to college application processes.

Tweens in the article are from Breakthrough New York – a not-for-profit that helps high-achieving, low-income students make their way through college. The students justifiably stress about everything from parts of tests, to interviews, to going to a new school out of their community – where they do not know anyone, and might feel out of place. They didn’t mention (or maybe are not yet thinking that far ahead) travel logistics, socio-economic disparity, community biases, education gaps and remedial learning, etc. The article doesn’t address the racial discrepancies in the NYC selection process – it’s not about that, but it is worth mentioning here (Chin, 2017). Though these students are carrying more stress than many others their age, it will likely give them an advantage as they navigate the competitive steps to successful adulthood.

While all of this is stressful and scary for these soon-to-be high schoolers, the skills they are learning, and opportunities available to them are potentially life-changing. If they are up to the challenge, they will learn about peer competition during the application process – at a much earlier age than the average American youth. If they succeed in getting in to one of the top-tier high schools, and work hard to achieve, the possibility of a top-tier college admission is virtually only dependent on that high school performance.

It is clear that these kids in the article understand the trade-off of stress/hard work vs. opportunity. Many of them already able to articulate goals and aspirations, and are that much closer to shaping their own futures and attaining those goals. In my mind, helping a kid who wants to shape their own future, is high on the list of worthy causes. Libraries can help that cause with its vast array of resources and their knowledgeable librarians, but they can specifically target assistance to NYC students with resources for specific test-taking, interviewing, application-writing and personal statement assistance. While there are many organizations willing to help these students, many will use their public library as their first stop. We can help!


Disare, M. (2017, August 02). ‘I’m just a little bit angsty’: New York City students talk about what makes them nervous about high school. Retrieved from

Donheiser, J. (2017). Students from Breakthrough New York visited the Chalkbeat offices. [Photograph found in Chalkbeat Education News, New York]. Retrieved from 

Robinson, G. (2016, February 23). The Problem with NYC High-School Admissions? It’s not Just the Test. Retrieved August 28, 2017, from


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