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Selective Enrollment High School Admissions Process

The admissions process for CPS Selective Enrollment High Schools can be overwhelming. Lucky for you, we have years of experience with hundreds of families, and we can help you, too!

Updates for Students Applying During the 2021-2022 School Year

CPS has announced that they will no longer require minimum NWEA MAP scores to be eligible to apply to Selective Enrollment High Schools. Instead, any student may apply, and selection will be based equally on scores from the CPS High School Admissions Test (CPS HSAT) and seventh grade grades. To learn more about the admissions process, check out info we've gathered from CPS here and at GoCPS here.

The Points System

CPS uses a 900-point system for Selective Enrollment High School admissions, based on two factors:

  • 450 points for seventh grade grades: CPS considers only reading, math, science, and social studies grades when calculating these points.
  • 450 points for the CPS HSAT: The admissions test is taken in the fall of eighth grade.

Score Cutoffs

Thirty percent of seats are filled based on these scores alone. The other 70% are filled based on a combination of scores and rank within socio-economic tier groups. Score cutoffs are quite high for the most competitive schools, like Payton, Northside Prep, and Jones, particularly for students who live in tier three or four. You can see the cutoff scores for the 2020-21 school year here.

Tiebreaker

If students have the same total number of points and there is only one seat available, CPS ranks students based on their performance on the CPS HSAT and then on the individual test section scores. They first consider the total test score, then the math, reading, vocabulary, and language arts scores (in that order).

Principal Discretion

If your child is not accepted into their top-choice selective enrollment school, they can choose to apply for a seat via Principal Discretion. Basically, the principal of each selective enrollment high school has the opportunity to choose a handful of students to enroll in their school. Interested students must complete an extensive application process and the students selected will be notified in the spring. Selection for Principal Discretion is very competitive, but it's worth trying if your child has their heart set on a particular school!

Choosing Schools

When your child applies to Selective Enrollment High Schools, they will be asked to rank their school choices. CPS will attempt to place them in their top-choice school. If they do not qualify for that school, CPS will see if they qualify for their second choice school and so on. This means that your child should rank their top choice school first, even if it's a long shot. If they don't qualify for that school, CPS will simply move on to the next school on the list.

Prepping for the CPS High School Admissions Test

Learn more about how we help students develop test-taking skills and confidence here.