SEHS Admissions Process | Nurturing Wisdom Tutoring

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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!

Uncertainty During COVID-19 Pandemic

Some of the information below will not apply to current eighth graders. CPS (and other districts) cancelled the spring 2020 MAP, and we are waiting to hear whether or not students will take the test at a later date. It's unclear how aspects such as the points system may change. Please give us a call to talk about the best plan for your child.

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 rubric.

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 2019-20 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.