School selection timeline

When to apply, and what happens next

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

This fall guide focuses on applying to high schools for the first time. But the District’s online School Selection application process is also for families of younger students who wish to change schools or for older students who want to change high schools.

For those without Internet access, computer kiosks are available at the School District’s regional Network Offices and at the Office of Student Enrollment and Placement, 440 N. Broad St., Suite 111. Parents can also use computers at any Free Library branch.

Families should use the District process for neighborhood schools with available seats, citywide middle schools, and neighborhood, citywide and special admission high schools. Note the deadlines, which are earlier this year.

Charter schools have a variety of application timelines and processes.

August – November

► Students and their families review the student’s final report card from the previous grade (for high school applicants, 7th grade) along with standardized test scores, behavior marks, and attendance to determine whether they meet entrance criteria for desired schools.

► The School Selection student application will be available on the District’s website from Oct. 1 to Nov. 13. District students will be able to access it through the parent/student online portal by entering the student’s ID and password. Non-District students can access it through a link on the main page of the School District website.

► The High School Expo will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Broad and Race Streets. Representatives from all Philadelphia District, charter and Archdiocesan schools are invited.

► Families research schools. The District’s high school directory and other resources are available at

► Counselors and teachers may hold information sessions to help parents and students choose schools and complete the online application. Parents may ask principals for help.

Fall and ongoing

► Some high schools allow prospective applicants to visit and shadow students. Families should contact schools directly. The District encourages high schools to hold open houses in the fall for prospective students.

► Charter schools have separate application forms and deadlines for entering admissions lotteries. A list of charter schools participating in the new common application and other information about individual charters are available at

By Nov. 13

► The deadline for the District’s School Selection application and for charter schools using the common application is 5 p.m. Nov. 13. Applications may be submitted starting Oct. 1, but there is no admissions advantage to submitting early.

► Students may apply to up to five District schools. There is no limit on charter applications.

► Non-District students who apply to District schools that have admissions criteria must deliver transcripts and required supplemental materials, such as essays, directly to the schools by Nov. 13.

November – January

► Schools with admissions criteria begin interviews and auditions. Some schools invite only students who have met their criteria and do not notify students who have not. Other schools interview all applicants. Some schools expect the student to call to schedule the interview. Students should keep on top of the process through counselors.

► Special admission schools make acceptance, rejection, and waitlist decisions.

► Citywide admission schools choose students who qualify for the lottery.

► The District’s Offices of Student Enrollment and Placement and Information Technology run three separate computerized lotteries (for general education, special education, ELL) for acceptance to citywide and neighborhood schools.

► Charter schools begin holding lotteries.


  • District notifies students about initial status for selected schools: Accepted, Declined, or Waitlisted.
  • Students with one or more acceptances are expected to confirm their choice within six days of the date of the notification.
  • Students with no acceptances are guaranteed enrollment at their neighborhood schools.


  • District collaborates with schools to fill vacancies from waiting lists and send students final letters about where they’ve been accepted.

… and beyond

  • After students receive their final letters from the District, they may make one change in their school selection if they are subsequently accepted from waiting lists.
  • Schools continue to pull from waiting lists to fill vacancies as they arise. Though not part of the official process, parents, counselors, and principals can and do advocate on behalf of students originally waitlisted or declined through phone calls and recommendation letters.

Compiled with assistance from Danielle Seward, District deputy chief, Student Enrollment and Placement.