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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!

The Points System

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

  • 300 points for seventh grade grades: CPS considers only reading, math, science, and social studies grades when calculating these points. Students can earn a maximum of 75 points for each grade.
  • 300 points for NWEA MAP scores: CPS students take the MAP at school in May of seventh grade, whereas students attending private schools take the MAP on a weekend in the fall of eighth grade. Students must score at least in the 24th percentile in both math and reading to be eligible to take the SEHS exam. Students with IEPs must have a minimum combined percentile of 48 in math and reading to qualify.
  • 300 points for the SEHS exam: The SEHS exam is taken in eighth grade, typically some time in the late fall or early winter.

You can learn more about the score breakdown in this chart. We recommend that you use CPS's point calculation tool to get an exact point total for your child.

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 2018-19 school year here. To learn more about the admissions process, check out these two CPS websites: Office of Access and Enrollment and GoCPS.


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 SEHS test and then on the individual SEHS test section scores. They first consider the total SEHS 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 SEHS Exam

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

  • Melissa, Parent of ACT Students
    We have used NW with our other three children so it was a no-brainer to reach out again to NW for our twins. You all teach them strategies for test taking but it also teaches them to 'read between the lines' in life also. Whether it is current news or trying to get along with a roommate or colleague, these are important lessons. Thank you!
    Melissa, Parent of ACT Students
  • Melissa, Parent of ACT students
    Bekah has been wonderful. She is always on time and takes every minute of her time with the boys very seriously. She is engaging and doesn't just sit which I notice keeps the boys a bit more attentive. She seems to really want them to succeed.
    Melissa, Parent of ACT students
  • Lori, Parent of an 11th Grade ACT Student
    It's been a pleasure working with everyone. Very professional customer service. People really listened to my son's personality and needs and found the right tutor for him. Follow up for feedback, reminders for tests and tips, etc have been great.
    Lori, Parent of an 11th Grade ACT Student
  • Lori, Parent of an 11th Grade ACT Student
    LOVE him. He's very personable and real. My son relates to him beautifully. I hear them talking sports, joking and having fun together. He has given my son the confidence he needs to know he can do well. The sessions are well paced. Brian never feels rushed or in a hurry to leave, which creates a very nice, laid back atmosphere. He is focused on Griffin and there for him.
    Lori, Parent of an 11th Grade ACT Student
  • Jill, Parent of an 11th Grade ACT student
    We have been so impressed with Brian. He is friendly, approachable, responsive and very good at what he does. We have seen big improvement in Owen's strategies and preparation for the ACT, thanks to Brian. You are very lucky to have him.
    Jill, Parent of an 11th Grade ACT student
  • Marcy, Parent of an ACT Student
    I have been so impressed with your company. Excellent communication and interactions with both the students and the parents. Tutoring is a huge investment for us so I appreciate feeling like we got what we paid for!
    Marcy, Parent of an ACT Student
  • Marcy, Parent of an ACT Student
    Vedran was a great help to my son in preparation for his ACT test. He was very responsive and flexible with us as my sons work schedule can be complicated.
    Marcy, Parent of an ACT Student
  • Ellen, Parent of an SAT Subject Test student
    Honestly every interaction has been great. I am so happy with the work of this company and have already given out the contact info to other families. I can’t say enough positive things!
    Ellen, Parent of an SAT Subject Test student
  • Ellen, Parent of a SAT Subject Test Student
    Our tutor was wonderful. I can’t think of a thing we would suggest to improve. She was so responsive, available, flexible and willing to do anything to get my son feeling well prepared for the SAT Subject tests. My son Evan thought she was wonderful and absolutely loved working with her. Highly recommend her to everyone!
    Ellen, Parent of a SAT Subject Test Student
  • Maribeth, parent of ACT and academic tutoring students
    Sam is great. He checks in all the time with me and he always makes sure that our needs are met. Sam goes out of his way to make sure that the kids get what they need. I am really happy with both Sam and our tutor David.
    Maribeth, parent of ACT and academic tutoring students
  • Maribeth, parent of ACT and academic tutoring students
    Both of my young adult children really love David. Not only is he a great tutor, he makes it fun and somehow even my teenage son enjoys meeting with him. He is responsive to our requests and very trustworthy. He has really become part of our family.
    Maribeth, parent of ACT and academic tutoring students
  • Donielle, Parent of ACT students
    Both my son, Matt, and daughter, Maggie, have had Helen as a tutor and they absolutely LOVE her. We have had an amazing experience and we would (and have) recommended her to our friends. Our tutoring director Danyelle is terrific! Sends reminders not just about tutoring but about the tests themselves. As a busy mom I love the fact that she reminds about registering for a test or that the test is coming up!
    Donielle, Parent of ACT students
  • Cynthia and Jim Patti, Parents of ACT students

    We continue to be really pleased with Nurturing Wisdom Tutoring. We have used NW tutors now for our two oldest children and have been very impressed with the tutors we’ve been matched with and the resulting ACT scores. The process, from initial introduction and tutor assignment to practice tests and scheduling, was very seamless and customer focused. In our case, both children raised their scores significantly. We believe in the program and will definitely be back to Nurturing Wisdom when it is time for our third child to prepare for the ACT.

    Cynthia and Jim Patti, Parents of ACT students
  • Darla, parent of an ACT student
    Alisha was very encouraging to my daughter and motivated her to try hard. Alisha never said anything negative and always gave my daughter hope that she could get a really good ACT score. She seemed very excited about what she was doing which gave my daughter more motivation too. She used their time very well, and their sessions always went until the last minute. She helped my daughter raise her ACT score quite a bit! I will pursue additional tutoring with my son because of the great experience with my daughter.
    Darla, parent of an ACT student
  • Casey, parent of an 11th grade ACT student
    Al was a wonderful tutor for my 16 year old daughter. He was very flexible with his time and was always respectful of our tutoring time — he arrived early to every tutor session and was ready to “dive” right into “work”. My daughter enjoyed Al’s kind demeanor and responded well to his tutoring style...which is understanding, resourceful and very knowledgeable.
    Casey, parent of an 11th grade ACT student
  • Andrea and Richard, parents of an 8th grader accepted at St. Ignatius
    As parents, we want the best for our children. So when we make such a critical decision on who will best serve the tutoring needs for our child, we better be right the first time and we were - it was Nurturing Wisdom. We knew from the minute we signed that we hit a home run. This feeling first came about when we spoke with Connor's tutor- Benjamin. Ben was an absolute professional who really knows how to convey his talent on strategic and quality test taking. I was impressed on how he explained to Connor the importance of the test taking strategies for each subject. Ben showed Connor how to tackle math equations in ways he was never taught. I say this with extreme sincerity, had it not been for Ben, Connor would have struggled on the HSPT test.
    Andrea and Richard, parents of an 8th grader accepted at St. Ignatius
  • Parent of an 8th grader
    Our son was very skeptical about his odds of getting into the high school of his choice, St Ignatius College Prep, after having taken the practice test and performing well below his normal standards. We were told of the tutoring program offered through Nurturing Wisdom and spoke to several parents who explained how much it helped their child, so we decided to enroll our son in their program. We were very pleased with his tutor and his style of teaching our son how to take this specific exam and what methods to implement to help him score high. As a result, he took the exam and was accepted into St Ignatius College Prep! We are extremely happy with our investment in his tutoring through Nurturing Wisdom and would recommend their program to anyone in our situation!
    Parent of an 8th grader
  • Amy, parent of SAT student
    James has been a great fit for our son. He is very focused, experienced and thorough. He arrives at each session promptly and very well-prepared. He stays strong and clear the full 2-hours and has built our son's test-taking endurance. Our son has responded well to James' lessons and has improved his SAT score.
    Amy, parent of SAT student
  • Aunt of online ACT student in Calcutta
    After our experiences, I would recommend Nurturing Wisdom to anyone. We appreciate Jenna's excellent work with Rahul. He has learned study skills and gained confidence in his abilities that will serve him well in college. And he's already been accepted to some colleges with generous merit and need-based financial offers! Thank you so much for working with Rahul and our family.”
    Aunt of online ACT student in Calcutta
  • Virginia, Parent of online executive functioning student
    Here are the pros of online tutoring: Not having to go anywhere, just sit at the computer at home! Relief of his help depending solely on me - I get a break! Watching the tutor get his agreement on actions, then writing out goals and faithfully addressing these at each session. His tutor is young, fun, and keeps him focused without the "Mom factor" (Mom is already annoyed at his dirty clothes pile, etc.) So far, Matthew has improved his grades from C's, D's, and F's to A's, B's and C's!” Virginia
    Virginia, Parent of online executive functioning student
  • Molly, online ACT student
    Nurturing Wisdom was a great experience. They were accommodating, helpful, and nice every step of the way. My tutor and I worked great together. She helped me improve my scores significantly and I am happy we decided to go to Nurturing Wisdom for my tutoring.
    Molly, online ACT student
  • Kelly, Parent of an Online Tutoring Student
    Although we were a little nervous to use a tutor over Skype, that aspect was a non-issue. The materials my daughter received in the mail were clearly labeled and easy to follow when her tutor referenced them. Also, her tutor gave her drills and helpful strategies to use when she did practice problems. After doing problems, she consistently asked my daughter for feedback on what she felt comfortable with and where she felt she needed more help, which helped them focus on areas where she lacked confidence. Overall, my daughter was so prepared for the ACT and her score showed that preparedness. Nurturing Wisdom knows what they are doing and we highly recommend them!
    Kelly, Parent of an Online Tutoring Student
  • Andrea, Parent
    We can't say enough positive things about Matt. He is reliable, patient, flexible, smart, hard-working, and makes tutoring as fun as it can be! We love that he has an easy-going style while also being very committed to covering necessary content. We've seen terrific gains attributable to Matt's efforts. He has been an absolute pleasure to work with.
    Andrea, Parent
  • Jenni, Parent
    Anna has been wonderful to work with. She did a great job matching my daughter with her tutor. She was very on top of things whenever I had any issues or questions. I have been incredibly happy overall with the service Nurturing Wisdom has provided us and would definitely recommend this company to my friends.
    Jenni, Parent
  • Jenni, Parent
    We have had a very positive experience with our tutor Shannon. She and my daughter are very well matched. She has been very helpful. She is patient and has given my daughter wonderful tools to use on her test. She is always punctual and it was so easy to schedule our appointments with her. All in all we loved having Shannon as our tutor and would continue to use her in the future.
    Jenni, Parent
  • Deanna, Parent of a high school entrance test student
    Nurturing Wisdom was recommended by our school. I have to say I have never been so happy with our overall experience from the beginning of discussing my needs for my son and our current tutoring. Catherine was always so respectful and caring and when we were blessed with Matt we couldn't have been happier! Matt is a remarkable young man who listened and cued in on Maximus' needs! I would recommend Nurturing Wisdom to all and I will also use them for my daughter as well!
    Deanna, Parent of a high school entrance test student
  • Deanna, Parent
    Nurturing Wisdom is an amazing company that will listen and help get the right fit for each child's needs! Going through high school testing is hard enough. When your child feels lost and unsure of how to handle testing, Nurturing Wisdom definitely prepares them for it. We were super happy with Matt- he was definitely everything my son needed!
    Deanna, Parent
  • Sarah, Parent
    Matt is an exceptional tutor: energetic, creative, generous, interested and interesting, attentive, detail-oriented (in the best way), communicative, friendly and kind. And effective!
    Sarah, Parent
  • Mirjana, Parent
    David is the perfect tutor. He is knowledgeable and personable. He has the right approach to teaching a middle schooler and my son responds well to his teaching style. He usually summarizes to me at the end of the lesson what my son and he worked on for that day. I cannot say enough positive things about David. My son looks forward to tutoring with him, which speaks for itself :)
    Mirjana, Parent
  • Kristi, Parent
    My 8th grade daughter has been tutoring with Rebekah this fall in preparation for the HSPT in December. They hit it off right away on the first day. Rebekah is a friendly, patient, funny, kind, outgoing, genuine, intelligent person who has been extremely easy for my daughter to work with. Rebekah just seems to be at ease with herself as a tutor, and that quality helps make the sessions very successful. My daughter has made great progress from the initial pre-test to the mid-test, and I’m sure that by the post-test she will have made even more progress. We really love Rebekah and cannot say enough positive things about her!
    Kristi, Parent
  • Cheryl, Parent
    My experience has been fantastic. Matt is a great match for Peter. Very smart and easy to be around. He has developed a great rapport with Peter. Peter has told me that he feels that Matt is good with explanations and understands his strengths and weaknesses. Peter said that Matt has given him many tips and tricks to working the test properly and he is excited to use them on the test. I highly recommend Nurturing Wisdom to my friends!
    Cheryl, Parent
  • Mary, Parent
    Jacob was great! He was always very prompt and ready to get to work. My son enjoyed his tutoring sessions. Jacob would engage my son, and I would hear laughter at some point during most sessions. He made schoolwork fun!
    Mary, Parent
  • Laura, Parent
    I have enjoyed all of my conversations with Katie. She has demonstrated a deep concern for the academic needs of my son. She has been very patient in all or our conversations, which have been lengthy at times. I found Katie to very knowledgeable when discussing various academic issues and developing a tutoring plan.
    Laura, Parent
  • Laura, Parent
    I find Alisha to extremely professional, accommodating, and knowledgeable. Most importantly, my son Michael enjoys working with Alisha. He thinks she clearly explains the concepts being taught Without judgment, she explains any errors he has made. He feels his reading skills have improved after working with Alisha. Additionally, he has said she has explained confusing grammar rules better than any previous teacher. We are both very happy with Alisha.
    Laura, Parent
  • Michelle, parent
    David was fabulous! He taught Kevin more about grammar, punctuation and writing than at least his three years in junior high! He also is unbelievably patient with a fantastic sense of humor. He helped with both ACT prep as well as college essays. My son really enjoyed working with David.
    Michelle, parent
  • Adam Krieger, Executive Director, Warren Township Youth Services
    We contracted with NW to provide parenting presentations and skills workshops to our local youth. The staff were very high energy and well organized in their presentations to the community. I would definitely recommend them for a school, library or PTA sponsored workshop.
    Adam Krieger, Executive Director, Warren Township Youth Services
  • Ciara N, Speech Language Pathologist & Clinical Supervisor
    Your workshop was so helpful and relevant to us. Our staff hasn’t stopped referencing things we learned and we’ve already had the opportunity to utilize some of the skills and strategies you showed us during our programs. You were engaging and knowledgeable about executive functioning which made it easy to learn!  Thank you so much.
    Ciara N, Speech Language Pathologist & Clinical Supervisor
  • Janelle P., Chicago
    Our tutor is excellent! He is so patient and never gets frustrated. He is good at giving a big picture view as well as a closer understanding of concepts. He works with our son until our son has a firm grasp on that concept before moving on. He is easy to work with and very accommodating.
    Janelle P., Chicago
  • Angelika Rupp, Counselor, St. Francis High School
    The Executive Functioning workshop offered by Nurturing Wisdom was a wonderful experience. Both students and parents learned so much from the information and hands on experiences offered in the workshop.The feedback we received was amazing and we look forward to offer this great opportunity to our school community again this fall.
    Angelika Rupp, Counselor, St. Francis High School
  • Katie Gallagher, Principal, FXW
    Nurturing Wisdom provided our teachers with useful, practical information and strategies to improve our students’ executive functioning skills. It was a pleasure to work with the staff at Nurturing Wisdom in planning this professional development opportunity.
    Katie Gallagher, Principal, FXW
  • Eddie Pryce, High School Counselor, Catherine Cook School
    Nurturing Wisdom has been a wonderful partner to our school.  They have offered top notch test prep services and feedback that are on par with other popular sources I have worked with; and their executive functioning workshops have proved to be very useful to many of our students that need a little bit of extra help in that area.  Whatever supplemental services we have collaborated on, they have proved to be worthwhile.  I love their pedagogy and the way that they seem to very student focused instead of business and revenue focused.
    Eddie Pryce, High School Counselor, Catherine Cook School
  • Tenah D.
    You have helped my daughter in so many ways. Her confidence, grades, and test scores increased beyond our expectations especially the test scores in only a couple of weeks. Thank you! Thank you so so much! I have a happy, confident child entering high school.
    Tenah D.
  • NW Tutor
    I've had a lot of jobs in education but none as rewarding as tutoring. You get to have a personal connection with students and families, and use the best of your skills to bring out the best in your students.
    NW Tutor
  • Parent of an 8th Grader
    Being the ultimate “poor test taker,” the key word for our daughter regarding test prep was definitely “nurturing.” The emotional care her instructors exhibited on her behalf was beyond the call of duty. Our daughter’s instructors (who honestly became family friends!) excelled in confidence-building techniques.
    Parent of an 8th Grader
  • Parent of an 8th Grader
    I just told my husband last night what a great decision it was to have our son do summer writing tutoring with you and how much he gained. His writing teacher this year told me in conferences that she had her husband read our son’s first essay because of how great it was.
    Parent of an 8th Grader
  • Parent of an 8th Grader
    Our son can't believe he got every math problem correct on his high school placement test! We are very pleased because he was placed in all honors classes! Thanks for all your help.
    Parent of an 8th Grader
  • NW Tutor and Coach
    I’m happy to be working with a company that really cares whether they’re helping students be successful as people, not just getting them A's.
    NW Tutor and Coach
  • Parent, Nurturing Persistence Talk Attendee
    Clearly parents were thirsty for this topic. I appreciated having both theory and case studies presented as well as concrete suggestions for fostering the growth mindset in family life.
    Parent, Nurturing Persistence Talk Attendee
  • Parent of an 11th Grader
    Our tutor has demonstrated a clear command of the subject matter while establishing a connection with our son. Their connection enabled him to more readily grasp concepts and maximize his test results. She matched her teaching style and pace to our son’s learning style and pace.
    Parent of an 11th Grader
  • Parent of a 11th Grader
    I want to let you know how you and your tutors changed the lives of my children. You were crucial in helping my daughter study for the ACT. Due to a chronic illness, she missed six weeks of school in her junior year and needed some extra help. She raised her ACT score from a 24 to a 30 and was able to get into her #1 college!
    Parent of a 11th Grader
  • Parent of a 12th Grader
    Our daughter's improvement on the ACT increased her scholarship money $4,000 per year! I am already "prepping" my high school freshman to expect ACT tutoring from Nurturing Wisdom! Your approach works!
    Parent of a 12th Grader