Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to some common questions about the High School Fair and how to choose the right high school for you.

Event Questions

What will I be able to do with this year’s virtual High School Fair? How does it work?

This year’s virtual fair is right on this website, phillyhighschoolfair.com! Just start browsing and you’ll get to know the participating schools and how to apply. Check out schools’ virtual booth pages and find videos, school highlights, application info and more. Connect with individual schools through various virtual or in-person events by viewing the Events Calendar. When it’s time to apply, find your application timeline and instructions on the How to Apply to High Schools page.

Who should attend the High School Fair?

All families with 7th and 8th grade students should attend the fair, but it’s never too early or late to start looking at your high school options.

Do I need to register or sign in with a password?

No, just go to phillyhighschoolfair.com on any internet-connected device, whether it be a smart phone, Chromebook or computer! You do not need to download any special software.

How much does it cost to attend?

It’s free!

Are there any interactive virtual events that I can attend?

Yes. Schools will be posting their individual events, virtual or in-person, through the Events Calendar. You can easily filter for virtual events.

Which high schools are participating?

Explore the list of 100+ high schools in Philadelphia on the Participating Schools page.

One of the high schools I’m interested in is not listed. How do I find out about that school?

Not all high schools in Philadelphia choose to participate in the High School Fair. Find information about all Philadelphia schools at greatphillyschools.org.

I’m interested in volunteering. Where do I sign up?

This year, we will not need volunteers as we are hosting a virtual event. Check again next year when we hope to be back at the Pennsylvania Convention Center!

I’m a school principal or staff member and I’d like to register my school to participate. Who do I contact?

All high schools within the Philadelphia city-limits are invited to register. Please contact us to learn how to participate.

Getting to Know Schools

The school I’m interested in is not hosting any events. What should I do?

There are lots of ways you can get to know a school, but first contact the school to speak with an admissions representative directly with any questions. If you know someone who currently attends that school, ask about their experience. Check out all information on that school, through the Philly High School Fair, GreatPhillySchools or their website. Talk with your school counselor about your choices.

What are virtual events?

Some schools are hosting many events virtually like open houses, shadow days, info sessions and more. In advance, make sure you have the software installed to attend as schools may be using Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc. To learn more, see the Upcoming Events.

Admissions

I’m in 8th grade, but did not take my standardized test last year due to COVID school closures. What is the new admissions criteria for schools?

All schools with academic or attendance criteria have updated their admissions policy on their individual page, located on Participating Schools. Your school counselor can help explain the criteria and advise you on applying.

What is the difference between a special admission and citywide admission school?

Special admission schools set a high bar, with test-score cutoffs and specific requirements regarding grades and attendance. Citywide admission schools give less weight to test scores, but still set minimum standards regarding grades, attendance and discipline records. The principals at special admission schools decide who gets in, while citywide admission schools put all qualified students into a lottery.

What if I want to go to a charter school?

You should contact that school directly as early as you can. Charter schools are required to conduct lotteries if they have more applicants than spaces, but each has its own application process and deadlines. They are not permitted to discriminate or deny admission to students based on test scores, disability, or English language proficiency. They can limit enrollment to certain grades and a particular area of study but must make their admissions standards clear. Many charters have detailed applications and strict deadlines in order to be entered into the lotteries. Additionally, many charter schools utilize applyphillycharter.org, a resource that lets you apply to over 70 charter schools in one easy application.

How do I find out the admissions requirements of a high school?

Check out the school’s virtual booth page here on phillyhighschoolfair.com or also on greatphillyschools.org. Your counselor can help explain the requirements.

If I don’t meet the exact criteria of a selective school, should I apply anyway?

Yes, but only if your record comes close to meeting all the requirements. Schools often admit students who do not meet every criterion. Principals at selective schools may seek recommendations from counselors and principals from the schools that applicants attend. Interviews can also make a big difference. See updated admissions criteria for District schools.

Certain schools have lots of applicants. How can I improve my chances?

Keep in mind that at some highly competitive schools, nearly all the high-school slots are filled by students from their middle school, making the odds of acceptance nearly one in a hundred. Other competitive schools may admit only one out of every 10 applicants. But there are schools in the city that are not as well known that have similar programs. Check them out. Applying to charter schools is another way of improving your odds; you’re not limited on how many you can choose.

Should I visit the school as part of the admissions process?

Schools are providing alternatives to the traditional way of visiting a school in person, like hosting virtual events. Some schools may be hosting in-person events too. Regardless, attending events allows you to get a feel for the school. Some schools allow applicants to shadow students for all or part of a day. Some require interviews or auditions. Check with your counselor.

Check out the Upcoming Events for upcoming virtual and in-person events.

What should I do if I am placed on a school’s waitlist?

Being placed on a waitlist for a school you really want to attend can be a difficult situation, but there are still things you can do to try and secure a seat at a school of your choice. We encourage you to proactively seek other options when you find yourself on a school’s waitlist. Read our recommendations for steps you can take when you’re on a school’s waitlist.

If I get rejected from all my choices, what should I do?

If you get on the waiting list of a special admission school or a charter school, there is a chance that you will be admitted. You should keep in touch with your counselor and with the school you want to attend. These schools manage their own waiting lists.

If you are on the waiting list for one or more citywide admission schools, your name will be entered in a second or even a third citywide lottery to fill the spaces in those schools once students accepted in the first round have made their choices and some have opted out. You should keep informed about these lotteries. While decisions for citywide admission schools are not made at the school level, it doesn’t hurt to let the principal know of your interest.

Are there high schools that will help prepare me for a trade or career?

Yes, there are 115 state-approved Career and Technical Education programs in Philadelphia, some of which lead to a certificate or credential along with your diploma that can help you in the job market. State-approved programs are those in which students take academic and technical courses for three years in their chosen field. The programs are on the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board’s High Priority Occupation list, which indicates that the program is meeting the workforce development needs of the region.

In addition, you can find charter or private options with career and technical programs.

I want to go to my neighborhood school. Do they have any special programs?

Many neighborhood high schools house special programs in such areas as health occupations, culinary arts, criminal justice, communications, graphics and automotive technology. You can view programs offered at schools on their greatphillyschools.org profile.

Can I apply to a neighborhood high school in another area?

Yes. Keep in mind that students outside the feeder area are selected by lottery and only if students inside the assigned zone don’t fill the school.

Should students with IEPs apply to selective high schools?

All students are encouraged to apply to any high school that interests them and for which they meet the basic qualifications. A court decision called LeGare requires the District to maintain a minimum percentage of students with individualized education programs (IEPs) in selective schools. There are separate lotteries for special ed students (and English learners) at the schools that have lotteries.

What are the rules for English learners?

All schools are required to serve English learners, and the District encourages EL students to apply to selective schools. A court decision called Y.S. requires the District to maintain a minimum percentage of English learners in selective schools and bars schools from denying qualified ELs admission by claiming a lack of services. But some schools provide better EL education than others. If you are an EL student, insist that a school show you or your family its state test results in reading and writing for EL students only. If a majority of EL students are not proficient in reading or writing by 8th or 11th grade, that is an indication of a weak EL program.

Besides my counselor, where can I get help with high school placement?

Check out the Parent and Family Resource Center. Applications, high school directories and explanations of the policies and procedures for the voluntary selection process are available at six centers located around the city. They can help you navigate the District’s website, where there are detailed school profiles.

The Parent and Family Resource Center is located at:

The School District of Philadelphia
440 North Broad Street, Suite 131
Philadelphia, PA 19130

215-400-4180

Scholarships & Financial Aid

I want to attend a private school, but I am not sure I can afford the tuition. What should I do?

While private education is tuition-based, generous scholarship aid is often available, so don’t let the “sticker price” of a school overwhelm you. Most schools offer their own financial aid and tuition assistance through need-based and merit-based scholarships. There are also several local organizations that provide financial support for students from low-income families.

What is the difference between need-based and merit-based scholarships?

Need-based scholarships or financial aid is awarded strictly based on the financials of the student’s family. Merit-based scholarships are awarded based on the student’s academic performance or other considerations rather than demonstrated financial need.