New CPS High School Application Streamlines Process of Choosing Schools

New changes to the high school application process mean parents and their middle school students need to start planning a little bit ahead.

Now, one new high school application will consolidate all the prior applications into one more streamlined process to ensure more students get one of their high-interest schools, says Grace Sawin, founder of Chicago School GPS.

“Previously, there were six or seven different applications for the different types of schools: international baccalaureate programs, magnet schools, digital media, culinary arts, etc.,” she says. “Now, there is one single-offer application for almost everything.”

Parents should go to to register and learn more about the application process. Having a single application will allow families to see every type of school in one application instead of having to fill out an application for every different type of school, Sawin says.

“Previously, students would get accepted into multiple schools and would ‘hold’ places in different schools until they made their final decision. So, some students would have multiple school acceptances and other students would have no acceptances or would be on wait lists.”

The new, ambitious application process will have students rank their preferences across all different types of schools, and students will be offered one acceptance.

“You can only send your child to one physical school, so this gives you one offer instead of multiple offers,” she says. “For those students who were previously shut out of options, they will now be offered more possibilities.”

Those students who were previously shut out would either be waitlisted or would just attend their neighborhood school, Sawin says. The new process reduces wait time. Also as part of the process, CPS also changed the application window; this year, it opens Oct. 2 and closes Dec. 1, Sawin says.

This means parents and students might have to do more up-front legwork researching and visiting schools before they create a priority list, Sawin says. If students are accepted at the school they rank their highest choice, spots at other schools aren’t held for them.

“You really should be visiting the schools, or looking at their websites, and see what the extracurriculars are, or what the facilities look like, and begin doing that in the summer through early October (of eighth grade),” she says. “I always tell families that they should start their school search around sixth or seventh grade, so hopefully this year’s crop of eighth graders has already done a lot of legwork.”

Students historically learn in February which school they get. Students who didn’t get accepted into any of their choice schools go through a second round of reshuffling in the spring.

Sawin says while the application process changes apply to most schools, it doesn’t apply to all schools, so parents with questions can visit for clarification. The website is constantly updated to provide the most current information available, she says.

As with any new process, there will be a learning curve for everyone.

“I haven’t gotten a lot of feedback from parents yet, and everyone was anticipating the change,” she says. “But people might be surprised to learn they have a shorter application window this year than they had in past years.”

Hidden Gems High School Fair

1-4 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 24 Amundsen High School, 5110 N. Damen Ave., Chicago

More than 35 schools will participate, plus parents and students will learn about testing requirements, how to strategize the school search process, an intro to scholarships, executive functioning tips and more.

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