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TODAY

Monday, February 18

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With November rapidly approaching, we begin to look forward to the month where we polish off the rest of the Halloween candy, eat a huge meal with our families and friends, and if you are a parent of an 8th grader, begin serious, stage-3 level panicking about which high school your adolescent will attend. The majority of high schools have deadline applications in December and January, and hold tours or "shadow days" (days in which your child may visit the school for a day) during November. So now is the time for you and your child to begin finalizing your high school choices.

There is a high school out there to fit every child's needs; it is by being aware of the different options that you will find the right one for your child. The following information is intended to help you in your search by providing deadlines and definitions.

You may think there are only two options for high school: public and private. While that is basically true, within those two categories are an abundance of choices.

In looking at Chicago public high schools, within those exist "selective enrollment" schools and "specialized program" schools. While most CPS high schools are obligated to take any student living in their district, the selective enrollment and specialized program schools usually require testing, high academic grades and a good attendance record (most schools look at 7th grade report card and attendance).

Some selective enrollment schools in Chicago include Jones College Prep, Northside College Prep, Walter Payton College Prep and Whitney Young Magnet High School. Each of these schools holds an open house, when you can see the school and meet the faculty. In order to be considered for these schools, your child must score a stanine of 5 or higher in the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and must pass an entrance exam given in November and January. Keep in mind, however, that even if your child meets this criteria, the spaces for these schools are limited and the demand is high. Acceptance may come down to a lottery in the end.

Specialized programs in Chicago Public high schools include science, music, drama, art, double honors and college-credit courses. Some schools which offer these are Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center and Lincoln Park High School.

Lincoln Park High offers programs with emphasis in drama, music, art and science. For the programs in performing arts, a portfolio or audition may be part of the application process. For the college-credit courses, known as the International Baccalaureate or IB program, students must be in the 90th percentile and, like the selective enrollment schools, must also take an entrance exam. Again, the demand is high and space is limited.

Now if you are going the private school route, there are two types of private schools: religious private schools and independent private schools of no particular religious affiliation.

The private independent schools, such as Francis W. Parker, The Latin School of Chicago, The Chicago Academy for the Arts, The Chicago Waldorf School, Roycemore Academy and The University of Chicago Lab School require that your child take the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) as part of their application process. The test is offered throughout the year, starting in the fall, and the results are sent directly to the school of your choice. These schools also require an interview with both the family and student.

Catholic schools also administer an entrance exam given at each school, usually on the second Saturday of January. The fee for that exam is $25.

The following is a list of some important dates for some of the schools in the area, but of course, you should call the school your are interested in for the most up-to-date information:

Chicago Academy for the Arts
1010 W. Chicago
312/421-0202
Open House: November 20, 2004 and February 19, 2005
Audition dates: January 15, March 12 and June 11

Fenwick High School
505 Washington
Oak Park
708/386-0127
Test date: January 8, 2005 at 8am

Francis W. Parker High School
330 W. Webster
773/797-5110
Open House: November 14
ISEE Test dates: November 6, December 11, January 18, January 21, March 19 and May 7

Jones College Prep
606 S. State Street
773/534-8600
Open House: November 7, December 7

Lane Tech College Prep
2501 W. Addision
773/534-5422
Open House: November 14

The Latin School of Chicago
59 W. North Avenue
312/582-6060
Open House: November 21
ISEE Test dates: November 6, December 11, January 8, January 22, March 13 and May 7

Northside College Prep
5501 N. Kedzie
773/534-3954
Open House: November 7

Walter Payton College Prep
1034 N. Wells
773/534-0034
Open House: November 13

Regina Dominican High School for Girls
701 Locust Road
Wilmette
847/256-7660
Open House: November 7 and December 5
Test dates: January 8, 2005 at 8am

St. Ignatius College Prep
1076 W. Roosevelt Rd.
312/421-5900
Open House: December 5
Test dates: January 8, 2005 at 8am

University of Chicago Lab School
1362 E. 59th Street
773/702-9451
Open House: November 14 ISEE Test dates: November 6, December 11, January 8, January 24, March 19 and May 7

Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center
5039 N Kimball
773/534-5100
Open House: November 12; Scholars Program Open House: October 27

Whitney Young Magnet High School
211 S. Laflin
773/534-7500
Open House: October 24

Next week: Pre-School or Bust!

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About the Author(s)

Alejandra Valera is a new mom and writer. If there's a baby- or kid-friendly place, product or event you think she should cover, email her at .

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