Can my child get into Brooklyn Latin?!

Understanding an alarming – and misleading - statistic in the High School Directory.


In the New York City High School Directory is a section titled “Navigating High School Admissions”, whose first section is aptly “Understand Admission”. On the next page is introduced the seemingly important issue of “seats” available for 9th graders at each the school.

The section reads in part:


Each program has a certain number of seats available for their incoming ninth grade class. ... You can find the number of available seats, the number of applicants, and the number of applicants per seat for each program the prior year on every school page... 


Over the past few months I've been surprised by parents expressing concern that their child has almost no chance for acceptance at Brooklyn Latin. This is typically stated after I’ve suggested that it’s an excellent school, and the most accessible of the Specialized High Schools (those that base admissions solely on the SHSAT exam).

When asked why they believe this they respond, “There are so few seats, and so many applicants!”

And in fact, the numbers in the 2016 directory for Brooklyn Latin are:

Applicants:                          16,723

Seats:                                       150

Applicants/Seat:                     111


It’s not hard to use those numbers to calculate another:

Seats per applicant as a percentage:       < 1%


1%! That’s harder than getting into Harvard!!

It's this final unwarranted interpretation that has convinced parents I’ve spoken to - and presumably many others - that their "very bright" but not "astonishingly exceptional" child has no realistic chance for admission.


Fortunately this is not even close to the truth!


The ultimate admission criteria for each school is their “admission method” and “admission’s priority”. For the eight Specialized High Schools the method and priority are essentially equivalent - students take a test (the SHSAT) and priority is firmly set by the score achieved.


This doesn't mean any particular child will get in, but it's relatively straightforward to predict their score on the actual test after they've taken a diagnostic. As a practical matter, your child is not competing against the 17,000 who've expressed interest in attending, only those likely to get a score on the SHSAT equal to or greater than their own.