Specialized High Schools in New York City—Ranked

NYC's specialized high schools
May 2, 2024
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 8/14/23

Wondering about NYC specialized high schools? Keep reading, and we’ll cover everything you need to know!

High school can be a complicated and stressful time for many students. There’s peer pressure, academic concerns, and uncertainty about the future. This is why it’s becoming more common for parents to enroll their children in special high schools that can help plan their trajectory.

Traditional schools offer a one-size-fits-all approach to education. As a result, many students are unsure about their plans after they graduate. What’s more, teachers in regular school districts are often not properly equipped to help students who need a more involved teaching style.

If having a more selective and deliberate high school experience sounds relevant to you, you’re not alone. Many parents prioritize their children's academic paths, especially when considering college admissions. That’s why it’s not uncommon for parents to start preparing early.

Without further hesitation, let’s get right into the specialized high schools NYC list! 

What Are Specialized High Schools?

Specialized high schools are competitive schools that emphasize academics and subjects such as the arts, languages, and science. Students attending specialized high schools have made a deliberate decision to be surrounded by like-minded peers and resources integral to their success.

These schools offer an alternative education pathway for those disillusioned by traditional school districts. In general, there’s a strong emphasis on academics at these elite institutions, among other topics, such as arts, languages, and humanities. Each school offers a different focus for their students.

Part of academic success is having the right mindset, and there’s no better way to achieve that than to be surrounded by peers, teachers, and staff who are focused and aware of your aspirations. Many students from specialized schools end up attending elite institutions, like Ivy League schools.

New York City Specialized High Schools Ranked

Seeing the NYC specialized high schools ranked gives insight into their different admission criteria and locations. You’ll notice each has a distinct history and caters to different kinds of students. No matter what your interests are, you’re bound to find a specialized school that matches your values.

School Name Neighborhood Admission Criteria # of Enrollments Ranking
High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College Manhattan SHSAT score 524 #22
Queens High School for the Sciences at York College Queens SHSAT score 520 #29
Stuyvesant High School Manhattan SHSAT score 3,304 #34
Staten Island Technical High School Staten Island SHSAT score 1,355 #49
Bronx High School of Science Bronx SHSAT score 2,985 #52

School Name Neighborhood Admission Criteria # of Enrollments Ranking
High School of American Studies at Lehman College Bronx SHSAT score 408 #55
Brooklyn Technical High School Brooklyn SHSAT score 5,966 #56
Brooklyn Latin School Brooklyn SHSAT score 844 #92
Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts Manhattan Audition 2,383 #361

Each specialized high school varies in ranking, location, and number of students enrolled. These metrics can be important when deciding which one to attend. Schools with more students tend to be less close-knit and more diverse.

The ranking also determines how academically rigorous each school is. Some schools, such as Staten Island Technical High School, have the top-ranked spots out of all public high schools in New York. All of the schools listed offer a high-quality and comprehensive education.

How to Apply for Specialized High Schools in NYC

To apply for specialized schools in NYC, you’ll have to list the institutions by order of preference when writing your SHSAT. For the vast majority of high schools, this is the only step required in order to apply. This is because most of the specialized high schools solely look at your SHSAT scores for admissions.

There is only one school that doesn’t consider your SHSAT score: Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. LaGuardia is a school that emphasizes creative pursuits and artistry. Students will be required to complete an audition in one of six different categories.

The audition options at LaGuardia include vocal music, instrumental music, technical theater, drama, fine & visual arts, and dance. In addition to your portfolio/audition, LaGuardia is the only school that will consider your academic record when being considered for admissions since they don’t require the SHSAT.

Tips about Specialized High Schools

It’s important to keep in mind that you can list as many schools as you want when you’re writing your SHSAT. This means that applying to all schools won’t negatively impact your chances of gaining admission to any of them. It can be a good idea to apply to as many as possible. That way, you’ll be able to keep all your options open.

Since most schools will only look at your SHSAT, it’s critical that you perform to the best of your abilities on the test. The SHSAT is similar to the SAT in that you’ll be evaluated both on language and math skills. Preparation goes a long way, so make sure you’re working hard throughout the year before taking the SHSAT.

If you have your sights on LaGuardia, consider thinking through your audition. While some students have more than one artistic interest, most lean more towards one category than others. Being able to effectively showcase your creative and technical skills will leave a lasting impression on admissions committees.

Common Mistakes

Here’s a list of common mistakes students make when applying to specialized high schools in NYC:

Not understanding admissions criteria: Many students assume having impeccable grades will guarantee their chances of admission. In reality,  only LaGuardia considers your academic record, and this is along with your audition.

Not applying to enough schools: Other students think applying to too many schools will make them appear less committed to any particular school. This is untrue, and the process is almost entirely computerized. Algorithms place students with the top SHSAT scores at their preferred schools as long as they have capacity.

Not studying properly for the SHSAT: Thinking you’ll ace the SHSAT simply because you’re a good student is surprisingly more common than you think. The SHSAT requires a dedicated long-term study plan, with many students comparing it to the SAT.


Still have questions regarding NYC specialized high schools? Check out our expert answers below!

1. How Many Specialized High Schools Are in NYC?

There are nine specialized high schools in NYC.

2. Do Specialized High Schools Care About Grades?

Specialized high schools in NYC don’t care about grades, with the exception of LaGuardia.

3. How Can I Get Into a Specialized High School?

Getting into a specialized high school requires a competitive SHSAT score.

4. Does LaGuardia Require the SHSAT?

No, LaGuardia doesn’t require the SHSAT.

5. Do Specialized High Schools Offer AP?

Yes, many specialized high schools offer AP courses. Some examples include Stuyvesant, Bronx High School of Sciences, and Staten Island Technical High School.

Final Thoughts

Going to NYC specialized high schools can be an excellent choice for many students in New York. There are nine different specialized schools to choose from, with options spread out all over the city. Each school will cater to different types of students and encourage them to thrive as much as possible.

Going to the right specialized high school can set you on a strong trajectory when it comes time for college admissions. You’ll be surrounded by a group of similar peers and have staff and teachers who understand the rigor of elite college admissions. A large number of specialized high school students matriculate to top colleges.

Almost all the specialized high schools will require you to write the SHSAT. It’s not uncommon for students to have problems writing standardized tests. That’s why you should never hesitate to reach out for a free consultation with our admissions experts if you’re having any trouble. That way, you’ll be one step closer to success.

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