A timeline for choosing

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

September – October

  • Counselors distribute high school application forms, directory, and materials.
  • District holds High School Expo – this year it is Oct. 22 – Oct. 23 at School District headquarters, 440 N. Broad St.
  • Non-public students can obtain materials at the Expo or from the Office of Student Placement.
  • Families research schools.
  • 8th grade counselors may hold information sessions for parents and students to help them choose schools and fill out the application form. Parents should keep in touch with counselors.

September – March

  • Some high schools allow prospective applicants to visit and shadow students. Families should contact schools directly.

By October 28

  • Students select up to 5 schools and return application form, signed by parent or guardian, to their school counselor. Applications may be submitted as early as Sept. 23.
  • 8th grade counselor enters application information into a networked computer system.
  • Non-public school students submit applications directly to the District’s Office of Student Placement.

November – January

  • Selective high schools begin to evaluate applications.
  • Selective schools begin to conduct interviews and auditions. Some auditions and interviews are by invitation only and these schools only send out notifications, not rejections. Other schools interview all applicants but may send letters with date and time to counselors, not students (if a student has a conflict, s/he must reschedule). Some schools expect students to take the initiative in scheduling interviews.
  • Students should regularly consult counselors to keep on top of their applications.

January – March

  • Special admission schools make acceptance, rejection, and wait-list decisions.
  • Citywide schools choose the students who qualify to enter into the admissions lottery.
  • The District Office of Student Placement runs three separate lotteries (for general education, special education, ELL) to determine which students are accepted to citywide schools and to neighborhood schools with outside applicants.


  • Notification letters are sent to students who have been accepted to one or more schools.

March – April

  • Students with multiple acceptances are expected to choose within two weeks and submit a form with their choice to the 8th grade counselor. They are urged to make timely decisions so the second round of placements can begin. Non-public school students send their choice directly to the Office of Student Placement.


  • After “multiple acceptance” students pick their schools, final letters are sent to all students that indicate where they’ve been accepted, not accepted, or waitlisted.

April – September

  • Additional lotteries are conducted to fill remaining slots.
  • Parents, counselors, and principals can advocate on behalf of students originally wait-listed or disapproved through phone calls and recommendation letters.
  • Additional letters are sent to remaining applicants, informing them of subsequent decisions. In this round of letters, students are admitted to only one school.