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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!

2022 Application and Test Dates

CPS will accept admissions applications between September 14 and December 8, 2022. There are different high school admissions test dates for CPS and non-CPS students:

  • CPS students will take the test during the school day on Wednesday, October 26
  • Non-CPS students will be assigned one of these dates: Saturday, November 5; Sunday, November 6; Saturday, November 12; Sunday, November 13 (test registration is included in the application)

Find more information 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

*As noted at the top of this page, this policy may change for students applying for admission for the 2023-24 school year.* 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. CPS is currently considering making changes to this system. Specifically, they want to reweight the socioeconomic tiers to create a more equitable admissions process. You can learn more about two proposed options here.

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 most recent admissions cycle here.


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.