With its new online portal, Chicago Public Schools has made a point of simplifying and streamlining its application process for schools. But even with the new GoCPS system, finding a school and enrolling a child can be a daunting challenge, requiring knowledge, research and online navigation skills.

In fact, just as Chicago families are getting acclimated to their back-to-school routines this fall, CPS application and testing deadlines are approaching for next fall — the 2019-20 school year.

We’ve done our best to sort it out (and we’ll also update this page as we learn more). Here are the dates you need to know:  

Preschool

Despite CPS’ new universal application portal, families applying to preschools still have to fill out two applications: one for open-enrollment preschools, and another for the district’s four highly competitive magnet preschools.

  • Open-enrollment: Applications for CPS’ open-enrollment preschool programs, as well as the city-sponsored, community-based programs, are accepted year-round. Click here for information on applying to open-enrollment preschools, and here for answers to common enrollment questions.
  • Magnet preschools: CPS’ four magnet preschools are Drummond Montessori in Bucktown, bilingual Inter-American in Wrigleyville, Oscar Mayer Montessori in Lincoln Park, and Suder in Near West Side. These preschools are especially popular because their pre-Ks feed into the schools’ kindergarten classes, according to the CPS portal. The application period for these programs is from Oct 1 to Dec. 14. The application link should be live here starting Oct. 1.

Kindergarten, elementary and middle schools

For parents who want to go outside of their assigned neighborhood school, applications open on Oct. 1 for all CPS elementary and middle programs. Schools are categorized as open enrollment; selective enrollment;  magnet; and magnet cluster schools. The application deadline is Dec. 14.

There also is sometimes a brief end-of-school-year window to reapply for schools with open seats. In 2018, for example, applications were accepted from May 28 to June 1 for dozens of schools.

  • Selective-enrollment testing K-4: Admission to CPS’ selective-enrollment schools is determined based on a testing process that varies with the age of the student. For students in grades K-4, the application process opens on Oct. 1. Students must sign up for testing; dates and sites are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Selective-enrollment testing 5-8: For students in grades 5-8, selective-enrollment eligibility is determined using the Northwestern Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress (NWEA MAP) test. This test is administered during school hours to all CPS students. Students transferring into CPS must take a CPS-administered NWEA MAP test in order to apply to selective schools. This test is offered during three weekends in September, but the registration date for those tests has passed. The test will be given once more in January; email oae@cps.edu for more information.

For more information, click here to visit CPS’ Office of Access and Enrollment. 

High school

Applications for students who will be ninth-graders in CPS high schools in 2019-20 will be accepted from Oct. 1 to Dec. 14, 2018, but families can activate their accounts now and start looking at options. The district’s new unified application portal, GoCPS, also lists schools with open seats for transfers. (Students applying for admission as sophomores, juniors or seniors are considered to be transfer students and do not participate in CPS’ universal application process; would-be transfer students must contact each school directly.)

Chalkbeat earlier wrote about how many students are applying to each high school. To search our database and see how supply and demand varies for each school, click here. 

To see average scores for individual high schools on the college admissions exam and make comparisons side-by-side, click here. 

  • Selective enrollment test dates: Students applying to one of CPS’ 11 selective-enrollment high schools (Brooks, Hancock, Jones, King, Lane Tech, Lindblom, Northside, Payton, South Shore, Westinghouse, and Young) must take an entrance exam. The test dates are Oct. 20, Nov. 17, Dec. 1, Dec. 15, Jan. 19, Jan. 26, and Jan. 27.
  • Selective enrollment eligibility for transfers: Eligibility for the selective-enrollment test is based on NWEA MAP scores. Students transferring into CPS must take a CPS-administered NWEA MAP test in order to be considered for the selective-enrollment test. The NWEA MAP test is offered during three weekends in September, but the registration date for those tests has passed. The test will be given once more in January; email oae@cps.edu for more information.

For more information, visit GoCPS go.cps.edu.

Transfers

Students who wish to attend CPS schools must establish proof of Chicago residency by July 1 prior to the fall term in which they wish to enroll.

Stay up to date

At the bottom of the GoCPS portal, there’s a form allowing students and families to sign up for CPS email lists to keep them informed about the 2019-20 application process.