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High School Planning

Choosing the right high school to fit your student's goals and needs is a critical step in the college and career planning process.

A high school education opens the door to countless possibilities. Students engage in curriculum aligned to Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards and learn practical skills that employers of the 21st century demand. Classroom assignments emphasize analytical thinking, creative problem solving, and collaborative teamwork to prepare students for success post graduation. 

Choosing a High School

When it comes to high school programs, CPS offers a wide variety of educational options and college and career pathways to meet the interests, aspirations and needs of the district's diverse student population. During eighth grade, elementary school counselors meet with families to help them identify the best programs for their students. Individual schools and the district sponsor open houses, information sessions, and high school fairs to help students get a better look at the schools and programs they are interested in so that they can make the most informed decisions.

Explore High School Bound to find schools that match a student's interests and goals.

Explore GoCPS to learn more about CPS schools, programs, eligibility requirements and the high school application process.

Transitioning to High School

Going to a new school is a big change for students. Most CPS high schools give ninth graders a head start with a day of orientation activities before the first day of school. Students get to know their new school and become familiar with the location of their classes.

Tips for a successful transition

  • Follow up with your child’s high school to ensure that all of the required registration paperwork has been completed
  • Make sure your child attends freshman orientation
  • For diverse learners, schedule a meeting with the special education coordinator to discuss accommodations
  • Notify the high school of any health concerns or medical needs of your child
  • Make sure you have access to the ASPEN parent portal

Things to do in conjunction with your student

Tips for Choosing a High School

These tips can help your student select schools that best match his or her interests and goals.

Match your student's interests to academics, activities, sports, and culture offered by CPS schools

  • Use the School Finder search tool to locate School Profiles to research and compare schools.
  • Define your student's ideal school environment and culture, the types of academic programs and extracurricular activities they would be interested in, and how far they would be willing to commute to school.
  • Develop a list of the high schools your student is interested in.
  • View each high school’s website and contact schools to schedule a visit or shadow day.
  • Talk to students who currently attend the schools your student is considering and ask them what they like and dislike.
  • Check the event calendar on GoCPS and attend information sessions and Open Houses to get a closer look at your student's favorite schools and programs.
  • Finalize your criteria for evaluating school options and prioritize your school and program list.
  • Talk to your school counselor about any questions you have about the application process and program eligibility requirements.

Meet eligibility requirements to qualify for magnet programs and selective enrollment schools

Search for detailed information about district schools on School Profile pages. The Admissions tab of each School Profile lists all academic programs offered at the school, specific eligibility requirements for each program, information about the selections process used to award offers, and the application process. 

High School Magnet Programs

Some high school magnet programs require students to have grade point averages, standardized test scores, and student attendance records from seventh grade above specific thresholds in order to be eligible to apply. Some programs have additional requirements that factor into the ranking and selection of candidates from the applicant pools. These requirements include auditions for fine and performing arts programs, attendance at information sessions for Service Leadership Academies and International Baccalaureate programs, and interviews, essays, and teacher recommendations for a few select programs. 

CPS requires that all eligibility and specific program requirements (tests, auditions, interviews) be met or minimally scheduled before the GoCPS application deadline in mid-December. Students are expected to schedule auditions, interviews, and information sessions with schools directly. Open houses and information session dates are published on GoCPS.

Selective Enrollment High Schools

In order to qualify for selective enrollment high schools, general education students and those with 504 Plans must achieve a minimum percentile of 24 in both the reading and math sections of the NWEA MAP test taken in 7th grade. Students with IEPs and English Language (EL) learners are eligible to apply to selective enrollment schools with a minimum combined percentile of 48 in reading and math on the NWEA MAP test.

In order for non-CPS students to qualify for selective enrollment—such as students attending Chicago private schools and other students moving into the district for ninth grade—they must take the NWEA MAP test at a CPS facility in the fall of their eighth grade year, and their results must meet or exceed the NWEA MAP score thresholds set for CPS students. 

All students who qualify and plan to apply to selective enrollment schools must take the selective enrollment test, which is used to derive the student’s composite score, which determines admissions rank and placement in schools, first by top score and then by tiers. Students must register for the selective enrollment test on the GoCPS application platform prior to the high school application deadline in mid-December, even if the test date occurs after the close. 

For additional information about qualifying for high school magnet programs or selective enrollment schools, visit GoCPS

Consider travel time

  • Use the School Info Map to locate your school choices on a city map and calculate distances from your home
  • Use the CTA Trip Planner to estimate commute time to your school choices
  • Recognize lengthy commute times may have alternative costs and tradeoffs (e.g., reduced time available to study, participate in after school activities, and meet family commitments)
  • Tardiness can have a negative impact on learning and attendance records

Rank and apply to choice programs and selective enrollment schools in GoCPS

Eighth-grade students applying to high school are encouraged to rank and apply to 20 choice programs and up to six selective enrollment schools if they are qualified.

  • Research different types of programs, academic and career opportunities, and extracurricular activities offered by schools throughout the city
  • Review academic performance and school culture and climate
  • Consider the selection criteria for program offers
  • Make sure that you register and complete any tests, auditions or supplemental work required for programs you are interested in
  • Speak to other students and their parents who have participated in the high school application process before
  • Schedule an appointment with your counselor to review your plans

Students do not need to apply to the general education program of their neighborhood school during the application process as that is a default option. However, if students are interested in applying to a special program offered by their neighborhood school (e.g., International Baccalaureate, STEM, fine and performing arts, or JROTC), they will need to select and rank these programs individually as part of their 20 choice program selections.

Students will not be able to select and rank any programs for which they are not eligible. These programs are grouped and grayed out at the end of their programs list in GoCPS.

College Preparation Checklists

Year-by-year checklists help you stay on top of your college planning activities by letting you know what to do each year from middle school through high school.

  • Four Steps to College Planning Guide

    Learn about activities that middle and high school students can do to prepare for applying to college.

    Learn More

  • Ninth Grade Checklist

    Learn what you can do during ninth grade to keep on track for college.

    Learn More

  • 10th Grade Checklist

    Learn what you can do during 10th grade to keep on track for college.

    Learn More

  • 11th Grade Checklist

    Learn what you can do during 11th grade to keep on track for college.

    Learn More

  • 12th Grade Checklist

    Learn what you can do during 12th grade to keep on track for college.

    Learn More

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