Take this valuable time to explore what these high schools have to offer in advanced placement classes, after-school clubs and truly organized athletics.
While one mother might boast about how her older son made it into Brooklyn Latin Public Specialized High School or Brooklyn Tech (which is not as “specialized” as it once was), you look at your son’s grades and realize that his marks are high enough for you to explore some better options than your local public high school or one of the smaller, themed high schools located in some areas in Queens or Brooklyn.
How We Chose The Top Schools
We sent questionnaires to dozens of private high schools in Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan for our 2013 issue. To be among the top high schools, we need to see at least 90 percent of the student body go to college.
We speak to parents, students, alumni and teachers – and in many cases administrators - and are able to obtain interesting information, which might not typically be shared with the outside world. The questions we ask are intended to compare the academic and social environment of each school.
Some schools were not shy about sharing scholarships opportunities for eighth graders, as well as money their seniors were offered in scholarships to colleges.
Some were able to brag about the average SAT scores of their current students, while others wouldn’t share.
On the whole, each school has its strengths and own unique culture. If Junior’s school is not listed here, it doesn’t necessarily mean we think his school is not worthy. There are some schools that wouldn’t share enough information for us to make a determination on quality of curriculum, program and student body.
The fact is that if you speak to a parent who will be truly honest about choosing a public high school, he or she will tell you that Junior is going to one of the themed high schools simply because they are small – and with public schools “big is bad.” “Small” gives your child a better chance of making it out of there in one piece.
After exploring high schools for a dozen years, we see much more to the education your child will receive at one of our top high schools. And now, there is a trend that many high-achieving eighth graders who might have attended a specialized high school are now opting for a top private high school thanks to some kind of academic scholarship.
In this, our 12th Annual Top High Schools issue, we suggest you explore choosing a high school that can add some moral and spiritual focus, along with what we have seen as top-notch academic regimen, to your child's formative teenage years. We suggest you look at this time of your child’s education as an investment.
Nick Melito, admissions director at Msgr. McClancy High School in East Elmhurst, points to the work of school alumni. “Former students are taking an increased interest in our school, “ he told us. “Alumni who are successful in the world of business or finance come back and look to give not just money, but resources that our students can use now.”
We find alumni family to be one of the more compelling reasons to attend one of our top high schools. The school family is with your student for the rest of his or her life, and it often comes in handy when they least expect it.
The schools we highlight in this section have a greater percentage of graduates with the marks and skills to go on to tier-one colleges. These schools truly focus on guiding every student towards the right college, not just put choices in front of a teenager.
Parents need to try to find the right fit for their child early on. Today, as opposed to ten years ago, it is more typical that the first child in the family will fit better into one school, only for the second child to be comfortable in another.
The schools are indeed different in their academic standards, expectations, social climates, class sizes, and spiritual emphasis. However, what we have found is that each looks at its students as part of a family. In fact, we find that typically half the faculty at these schools attended the school themselves.
After exploring high school options in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan, we leave you with this thought: Even if you think your family can not afford to send your child to a private school, attend the open houses during the next few weeks and talk to an admissions director to explore scholarship and aid packages.
If they find your child is likely to succeed and can bring something to the table that might add to the life of the students at the school, you might just be lucky enough to qualify for scholarships or aid.
Take the TACHS
Apply for the Test for Admission into Catholic High Schools, or TACHS, scheduled for November 9 for Brooklyn/Queens students and November 8 for NY Archdiocese 8th graders. The registration deadline is October 21.
Visit www.tachsinfo.com or call 1-866-61TACHS to register in advance. For the student applying to a top private high school, a choice of schools (in order of preference) must be given by the student with the application.
Worth The Investment
After doing the research, we found that the schools we cover in the Top High Schools issue are worth the investment in your child. Special attention given to each student is what most of these private high schools are about.
Whether a future employer sees the name of the school on a resume, or their extended family on a Facebook or LinkedIn page, the high school they attended follows them for the rest of their lives. Although focus on faith and moral character is also paramount to the high school experience at these schools, the old adage that these schools shove religion down the throats of students is simply not true. We find the schools are culturally and religiously diverse.
Many schools we cover in this edition vary their approach to getting top students each year, while others have stuck to their traditional methods.
Technology, Scholarships, College Credit Courses & Internships
The schools in this issue have invested heavily in technology assets in their classrooms and libraries. In fact, over the last ten years they have outspent public schools on this front. They all offer high-speed Internet connections and state-of-the-art computers, libraries and interactive websites.
We are noticing a great deal of student-teacher email and web interaction over the past few years. Assignments are given out and handed in via web portals. “Colleges work that way therefore so do we,” said one English teacher at a Manhattan school we spoke with.
Almost all of the schools in this issue offer college credit courses, which helps with some college expenses. St. John’s Prep in Astoria typically has 30 percent of their students enrolled in at least one college-credit course and almost two-thirds enroll in an honors course.
St. Francis Prep offers 30 college credit courses in subjects ranging from art and language to math and more. St. John's University has college credit courses at Msgr. McClancy. “About 10 percent of our students are taking advantage of those courses this year,” said Brother Brian Curry. “It only costs them $250 and they receive thousands of dollars in tuition credits.”
Foreign country travel excursions are also part of many of the schools’ language curriculum options. Manhattan’s Dominican Academy has more than one foreign-bound school trip every year, and the cost is fairly reasonable.
While we find that most private high schools in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan are still attracting students in their locale, they are a choice for more and more students who commute an hour and sometimes more.
“It literally takes me 21 minutes from Roosevelt Avenue to get to the door of my Manhattan school,” said a senior from Xavier High School who lives in Woodside.
We are also finding students willing to travel if they are offered academic scholarships, or if they see that some personally desirable extracurricular activities (sports teams, clubs, specialized academic programs) match their needs.
One student who lives in Astoria and attends the Notre Dame School on 13th Street in Manhattan, told us that she gets some valuable study time accomplished during her 45-minute daily commute.
More important to you might be what that school has to offer and what kind of graduates they produce. Graduates of all-girls St. Jean Baptiste High School on 75th Street in Manhattan, for instance, are attending college at a rate of 100 percent.
Speak To Parents
Every school has its strengths. Ask the parent of a child who you think is the kind of person you want your child to be. A good athlete, a good student, a polite, energetic, motivated high school student might impress you.
One Middle Village mom whose daughter attends Dominican Academy in Manhattan says her daughter got a new lease on life once she began attending the all-girl’s school in 2012. “She is motivated and the fit is perfect,” she said.
You need to believe that your child’s high school choice plays an important role in the outcome of their life.
What To Look For at The Open House
October is the month most schools want you there, although some offer second chances in later months. It is imperative that you attend the open house with your child. Even if you attended one a few years ago, go again. You will surely see the school differently, as school amenities might change. Check each school’s description for the date of the open house.
Ask some questions of the people taking you on the tours. All schools have had a child or two attend an Ivy League college at one time or another. Find out where a student who was in the middle of the class academically went last year. Do most of the graduates go to community colleges, CUNY, SUNY or tier-one colleges? U.S. News and World Report magazine publishes a guide to U.S. colleges every October. Give it a look.
Speak to a current student you might not know. Is he or she the type of kid you think you want your child to be? Ask where they score in relation to their classmates. Are his or her marks in the middle of the class, or are they above average? We have found that a teenager will most likely be honest if they are talking to you one-on-one.
Find a senior. Where do they stand in the class and where are they planning to go to college? How were his or her grades in elementary school? If that student, who is in the middle of the class is now attending a college you think might be the goal of your child, then maybe that is the school for your son or daughter.
Ask to speak to the principal or admissions director during the open house. Introduce your child to him or her. Don’t be afraid to tell him or her about your child and what type of student they are.
In talking to many of them for this special issue we see that they want to talk to you about your child and we have found that they are honest with you. Their experience tells them that if they paint a true picture, then the family can make an educated decision about their school. They have told us that they don’t want a student who will not be a good fit for the school. They seem to believe that if the student leaves after a year it doesn’t make sense for either the school or the student.
Sports & Schools
Many schools have sports as a secondary focus, but admit that sports play an important role in the high school experience. Some schools concentrate on their teams because it is a way of promoting their school. Although few administrators will freely admit that they feel the good press of a few good teams goes a long way in recruiting students, it’s true.
Many students say that looking forward to practice or the game after class or the intramural sports program at the school gets them through the academic day. Not everyone will make the team of their choice, but these schools do a great job in making sports an integral part of the school spirit. Be cautioned not to pick a school because they have a great basketball or baseball program, because if your child doesn’t get picked for the team resentment often sets in.
If your child is an athlete, seek out the freshman coach before you attend the school. Most coaches we spoke with will be honest about your child's chances of making the team. Although recruiting kids is generally frowned upon, it always seems that basketball and baseball coaches of high school teams will know four or five kids coming into their freshman program. We have found that 40 or 50 students will attend basketball and baseball tryouts at the larger schools.
If your child is not one of the select few for the highly popular basketball team, we find that many opt for the track & field or volleyball team. Some parents feel their child might actually be better off on the soccer team in the long run. "At least we knew she would play when I went to the games," commented one parent we spoke with.
You, as a parent, might best know what your child can handle, academically and socially. However, we have found that, on many instances, the right high school has brought out positive growth in teens that parents did not expect to see.
It is indeed true that some schools expect more homework than others. It is also true that some schools graduate more of their students to top colleges. The way they keep their standards high is to accept students who will succeed in the daily academic grind and spiritual experience.
There is no shortage of moral uplifting during a teenager’s years at the private high schools we list. Spiritual and religious experience is important in private schools. Religion and the spiritual interactive experience might not be on the top of most parents’ list, but is an interest for these schools.
William Higgins, principal at St. John’s Prep in Astoria, talked about faith, religion and social values in preparing his students for college. “We can openly talk about values and religion here,” he said. “We have retreat programs on the third floor of our building and it is an important part of the education of our students. Our Campus Ministry team goes away with students for weekend retreats as well. A good deal of spiritual growth goes on.”
If you have your heart set on a school, call the admissions director and try to get them enrolled. We know of many instances where this was done, and the student had a great high school experience and graduated to the right college.
However, we know of many instances where the child couldn’t handle the work and was asked to leave the school. So be as brutally honest with yourself and your child as possible.
There is no doubt that the extra attention and quality education your child receives at our top schools is worth the cost and the effort. Many children mature during their teen years. Don’t stifle their academic potential before they get a chance to grow up.
We have reviewed scholarship opportunities at our various schools on our web page. Please visit our website and look for the article “2013 High School Scholarships Available.”