Skip to main content

Applying to NYC High Schools: Special Admissions Schools

This LibGuide aims to provide information about the New York City public high school application system.



Specialized High Schools

Within New York City there are nine specialized high schools. These schools support students that show academic and artistic excellence.


Specialized High Schools are not included on the MySchools application for NYC high schools, and will not be involved in your ranking of schools and programs. Eight of them require the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), and one requires an audition process. All other high schools qualify as non-specialized schools.

  • Department Of Education: Specialized High Schools- Government webpage that gives an overview of specialized high schools and provides links to auditions/tests information, diversity initiatives, and open house dates. It is a useful source for students who are just learning about specialized admissions schools and are hoping to gather a bit more information. 
  • 2019-2020 NYC Specialized High School Student Handbook- Online PDF that is an essential resource for students. It provides an entryway into learning about specialized schools and has information on the SHSAT and SHSAT accommodations for disabled and ELL students. The handbook also has a few SHSAT practice questions students can use to test their knowledge. Like the High School Online Directory, this handbook is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Bengali, Russian, Arabic, Urdu, Haitian Creole, Korean, and French. Translated copies of this book may be found at your local middle school or at a Family Welcome Center.

Diversity Initiatives

In past years, there have been reported problems with diversity when it comes to specialized high schools. The Department of Education has implemented a few diversity initiatives as a result.

  • Department of Education: Dream Program- Government webpage with information on an intensive academic program that prepares students for the SHSAT. Seventh-grade students are eligible to apply. This source will provide updated information on how to apply to Dream, when the program takes place, deadlines, etc.

  • Department of Education: Diversity in Admissions- Government webpage aimed at ninth-grade students who take the SHSAT and score just below the cut-off. Students can use this source to view participating school and eligibility requirements.

Schools That Require The SHSAT

What is the SHSAT?

The Specialized High School Admissions Test is used to determine admission into eight of the nine specialized schools within New York City. Admission into these schools is based primarily on this test and your previous academic standing is not taken into consideration. These specialized schools work on a seat based system. This means that there are a certain number of seats available for incoming freshmen and sophomores. Students will be ranked in order by how well they performed on the test, and the highest-scoring students will be offered a place first until all seats are filled. If students miss the cut-off score for their first choice school, or their first choice school becomes full, they may be offered a seat at a different specialized school. If a school offers you a seat and you reject their offer, it is unlikely that you will receive an offer from a different school.

What's on the SHSAT?

The test is made up of two sections (English Language Arts and Math) with 57 questions for each part. Students are given 180 minutes to complete the test.


How do I take the SHSAT?

 If you wish to take the SHSAT, please contact your school counselor or use MySchools to receive a test ticket and your testing location. Generally, the cut off for receiving a ticket is early October and testing will occur in late/early November.


  • Admission Squad: SHSAT Cutoff Scores- Non-profit organization blog page with the specialized school cut off scores. Students can use this page to get an indication of what scores they should be aiming for in order to get into their desired schools. 

SHSAT Resouces

Prep Books:

​Every year, companies like Kaplan, The Princeton Review, and Barron's come out with SHSAT prep books. These 2019 prep books can be borrowed for free at the New York Public Library or purchased online through Amazon.

Online Resources: 

  • PassNYC: SHSAT Test Prep- PassNYC, a non-profit group that works with groups who tend to underperform on the SHSAT, has teamed up with Test Prep SHSAT to offer 12 free SHSAT exams. Students and families can use this link to create a free account and get started studying. 

  • Tyler Tutors- SHSAT prep website with links to YouTube videos on ELA and Math rules to help students prepare for the SHSAT. In addition, students can take an online diagnostics test for the SHSAT or pay to access fully downloadable tests.

Prep Programs:

  • New York Public Library: Classes & Workshop- Public library website where students can search for SHSAT test prep workshops that are occasionally held over the summer.
  • Helicon, Inc- Non-profit organization that offers a SHSAT Prep Program to Black and Hispanic girls for free. Families can use this source to learn where to attend an information session and how to apply. 

LaGuardia Arts High School

What is LaGuardia High School?
LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts is a specialized high school in New York City which is best known for its performing arts programs. The programs offered are Dance, Drama, Fine Arts, Instrumental Music, Technical Theatre, and Vocal Music.


How do I apply to LaGuardia?

LaGuardia is different from the other specialized high schools when it comes to admissions. It is not a school that requires the SHSAT, it requires both an academic check and an audition for whichever program you are interested in. To register for an audition, students can speak to their school counselor or have a guardian register for them on MySchools. Audition tickets will be administered in mid-October and will clearly state the date, time, and location of the audition. Make sure to bring your audition ticket to your audition. It is also important that students input their academic record onto MySchools so that they may be considered for LaGuardia High School. You can audition for multiple programs, and dates of auditions are decided by the borough of the school you currently attend. Makeup auditions are available to those who need it.


What if I don't get in?

If you do not get into your desired school or arrive in New York City past the deadlines do not worry! There are re-auditions and retests in ninth grade if you are interested in transferring after your first year.


  • Laguardia High School Audition Page- High school webpage where students can access departmental audition information, audition schedules, and day of audition information. This is the best source for students to refer to if they have any questions or concerns about their auditions.

  • Laguardia Arts Fall 2019 Audition Summary- PDF of the general requirements for auditions for each program that LaGuardia has on their website.

SHSAT and Audition Accommodations

Who is eligible for SHSAT and LaGuardia Audition accommodations are provided to the following students?
Former or current English Language Learner (ELL) students and s
tudents with disabilities who have IEPs or 504 plans.


What testing accommodations are included for the SHSAT and Laguardia Auditions?

Accommodations will vary depending on the student. On the SHSAT, a student may be eligible for testing accommodations such as extra time, a mathematics glossary, oral translation of test directions, etc. Please check the Specialized High Schools Student Handbook discussed above for more information. It is important to note that there are some accommodations that will not be provided to any student. 


  • Department of Education: The IEP- An IEP is an Individualized Education Program written by the Department of Education to help provide children with specialized instruction in the most effective way possible. This government webpage can be used to learn about IEP's and if you or your child qualifies for one. Families can also use this source to better understand diploma objectives and the reevaluation process.


  • Department of Education: 504 Accommodations- A 504 plan ensures that students with disabilities receive appropriate in-school accommodations that will ensure their academic success. This government webpage provides information on 504 eligibility, testing accommodations, transportation accommodations, and home instruction all through this source.