New York City has public high schools with every imaginable theme, a dizzying array of different application requirements, and charter schools galore. Choosing from one of NYC’s over 400 public high schools can be a real task. How do you decide where you go to school? And what’s at stake?

In the spring of 2012, a group of NYC public high school students worked with CUP, the Resilience Advocacy Project (RAP), and teaching artist Douglas Paulson to investigate the high school application process. The team interviewed the Department of Education, guidance counselors, parents, Inside Schools, advocates, and each other. Through their interviews, adventures, and a small time machine, they illuminated this daunting but mandatory milestone.

The team made a colorful interactive website to break down what they learned for middle school students, their parents, and guidance counselors. They also created a printed version of their findings: a ‘giant bookmark’ with a visual timeline of the application process. Old School New School has been picked up by middle schools, guidance counselors, and community organizations throughout the city, including Partnership for the Homeless, NYC’s Administration for Children’s Services, and the Brooklyn Public Library.

Resources & Links

Old School New School is the site that the project team created to guide you through the high school application process. It features accessible graphics, playful animations, and friendly guidance from high school students who have already gone through it all. 

The Resilience Advocacy Project (RAP) develops and implements innovative individual models that build resilience – the ability to bounce back from adversity – in low-income children and youth.

Insideschools is a site written by journalists, public school parents, and public school advocates dedicated to providing the best independent information about New York City’s public schools.

The NYC Department of Education’s high school page has lots of links, including notifications of upcoming tests and auditions for specialized high schools, and an online version of the high school directory.

Advocates for Children of New York works on behalf of children who are at greatest risk for school-based discrimination and/or academic failure.

Alliance for Quality Education is a NY-statewide nonprofit that unites parents, children’s advocates, schools, teachers, clergy, and others to fight for high quality public education.

Funding Support

Major support for this project was provided by public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support was provided by public funds from the Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Special thanks

Kim Nauer and Pamela Wheaton (Inside Schools), Zakiyah Ansari (Alliance for Quality Education), Phil Cohen (The Harbor School), Erika Palmer (Advocates for Children), Robert Sanft, Khan Hussham, and Kathleen Brannigan (Department of Education), Aaron Chiu, Sabine Bernards, Matt Miller, Keri Ouellette, Roz Palmer, Kimberly Powell, Chelsey Wickmark, Marlisa Wise, and Jordan Zimolka


  • CUP
  • Teaching Artist
  • Douglas Paulson

  • Project Lead
  • Valeria Mogilevich

  • CUP Project Support
  • Christine Gaspar
  • Sam Holleran
  • Resilience Advocacy Project
  • RAP Project Support
  • Brooke Richie
  • Cait Gillies
  • Students
  • Gongga Baerde 
  • Adriana Deonarine 
  • Destiny Lopez 
  • Safiya Mann 
  • Remorn Radway 
  • Zoya Seaforth
  • Web programming
  • Justin Rancourt

    • Music
    • Nick Cregor 
    • The Eternals