Anticipation held eighth-graders at the edges of their seats at The New School for Leadership and Journalism in the Bronx on Friday afternoon.

The roughly 300 students, along with more than 76,000 of their peers across New York City, were seconds away from opening up their high school acceptance letters, informing them where they would spend the next four years. (See Chalkbeat’s guide to high school admissions debates.)

“I can’t do this,” shouted a boy at the back of the room, shaking as he clenched the white envelope in his hands.

After the school’s principal and guidance counselor finished passing out all of the letters, they signaled to the class to open them simultaneously. A clamor of shouts, cheers and sobs erupted across the room. Some students sprang up in excitement, while others sank into their desks in dismay.

Chalkbeat spoke with students at the school, also known as M.S. 244, about their high school offers as they were still reeling from the news.

Mariam Djaballah (left), an eighth-grader at M.S. 244, reacts to being admitted into the Beacon School.
PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
Mariam Djaballah (left), an eighth-grader at M.S. 244, reacts to being admitted into the Beacon School.

Mariam Djaballah
First choice: The Beacon School
Accepted into: The Beacon School

Miriam Djaballah started crying immediately after opening her letter Friday afternoon. With hands covering her face, she appeared extremely disappointed. But Djaballah was simply overcome with emotion after winning a spot at one of the city’s most selective high schools.

“I am shocked. I am so happy,” Djaballah said. “This is a dream come true… Getting into Beacon really proves to me that hard work pays off, and I am so happy that my future is planned out right now.”

“Getting into a successful high school means that I’m that much closer to accomplishing my dreams,” she added. “It all starts now.”

Kevin Hilario (right) was comforted by friends and teachers after not getting into Talent Unlimited.
PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
Kevin Hilario was upset after not getting into Talent Unlimited.

Kevin Hilario
First choice: Talent Unlimited
Accepted into: Celia Cruz High School

After opening his letter, Kevin Hilario stood at the back of the room with his arms crossed and his eyes fixed on the ground.

“I am feeling upset and disappointed right now,” Hilario said. “I was hoping to get into Talent Unlimited.”

In his audition for the performing arts school back in December, Hilario drew from his studies in music theory and hoped that Talent Unlimited would be the place where he would hone his skills.

“Not getting accepted makes me feel like there’s something I could’ve done better,” he said, adding that he plans to re-audition for Talent Unlimited in the fall.

Kadijah Belcher (right), hugs her friend after finding out she was admitted into LaGuardia High School.
PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
Kadijah Belcher (right), hugs her friend after finding out she was admitted into LaGuardia High School.

Kadijah Belcher
First choice: Frank Sinatra School of the Arts
Accepted into: LaGuardia High School (specialized) and Repertory Company High School for Theatre Arts

“For the whole week I couldn’t sleep,” Kadijah Belcher said, adding that she even considered not coming to school on Friday. “The whole day, I was like — this is the day that I find out if I’m a failure or if I pass.”

Belcher said she was shocked by her acceptance to highly competitive LaGuardia High School because she had felt that her singing audition had not gone well, so she had ruled it out as a possibility.

“It was so surprising,” she said. “One of my closest friends also got into LaGuardia… I’ve got a few of my buddies.”

Erika Corniel found out she was not admitted into any public high schools during the first round of applications.
PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
Erika Corniel found out she was not admitted into any public high schools during the first round of applications.

Erika Corniel 
First choice: Fashion Industries High School
Accepted into: No schools (second round applicant)

Along with 25 other eighth-graders at M.S. 244, Erika Corniel was pulled out of her first period class on Friday and told by the school’s guidance counselor and principal that she wasn’t accepted into any of the school she listed on her application.

“My mom is going to be so disappointed. She already has so much on her plate,” Corniel said as she planned out how she would break the news at home.

When Corniel went through the application process, she said she ranked her choices based on her interests in fashion, dance and forensic law. Corniel said she hopes to keep her grades up for the rest of the school year to get into a good school during the second round.

“This marking period, I’m trying to get more than an 80 in all of my classes so I can get into the schools that I wanted to,” she said.

Bernie Urena is comforted by students and one of his teachers at M.S. 244.
PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
Bernie Urena is comforted by students and one of his teachers at M.S. 244.

Bernie Urena
First choice: Frank Sinatra High School
Accepted into: Pelham Lab High School

“I got into my third pick, and I have mixed feelings,” Urena said. “When I first opened up my letter I was upset because I wanted to get into Frank Sinatra.”

Urena said he was drawn to the band program at Frank Sinatra High School, where he hoped he could grow as a bass guitarist. But after talking to his teachers, Urena began to imagine some new possibilities at Pelham Lab High School.

“I’m feeling happy about getting into Pelham Lab now. My counselors and teachers are telling me it’s a good school,” he said, adding he was surprised to be accepted there because he didn’t think his grades were good enough.

Naylean Miranda was accepted into Fashion Industries High School.
PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
Naylean Miranda was accepted into Fashion Industries High School.

Naylean Miranda
First Choice School: Fashion Industries High School
Accepted into: Fashion Industries High School

“I’m feeling emotional right now because I got into the school of my dreams,” Naylean Miranda said. “I worked really hard to get here.”

As part of her application, Miranda submitted a fashion portfolio that included images of mannequins dressed in her designs and was also interviewed by the school.

“Fashion is very personal for me, and I’m glad I have the chance to continue with it,” she said.

Di’Anna Bonomolo and Ahmed Hassan react to getting into their top choice specialized high schools.
PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
Di’Anna Bonomolo and Ahmed Hassan react to getting into their top choice specialized high schools.

Ahmed Hassan
First choice: Bronx High School of Science (specialized) and Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering
Accepted into: Bronx High School of Science (specialized) and Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering

When Ahmed Hassan’s older brother wasn’t admitted into Bronx Science, he said it pushed him even harder to aim for one of New York City’s most elite public high schools.

“He actually is the one who helped me the most,” Hassan said. He wasted most of his summer helping me prepare for the exam” — the Specialized High School Admissions Test.

“I’m feeling very happy right now, very excited,” he said. “I really want to show this to my brother,” he added, holding his acceptance letter.