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Seats at New York City’s nine specialized high schools are highly coveted, mostly because of the rigorous courses and excellent college preparation.

But these same qualities sometimes cause concern. In responses to qualitative surveys, parents and students have indicated worries about stress caused by the heavy workload, competitive environment, and academic pressure.

Fortunately, the specialized high schools recognize these concerns. Each of the nine schools offers substantial support and guidance for students and parents alike.

The Bronx High School of Science (Bronx Science)

At Bronx Science, enrollment totals over 3,000, which causes some parents and students to worry that personalized learning is an impossibility. Fortunately, the school offers a variety of programs for students who need additional tutoring and support, particularly in a more personal setting.

To help freshmen transition to life at Bronx Science, counselors run a six-week program teaching time management and study skills. Each freshman homeroom class is paired with 4-5 seniors through the school’s Big Siblings program.

At seminar style after-school classes called “Small Group Instruction” (SGI), students can ask questions and review material with their teachers. The tutoring schedule is posted on the school’s website for students and parents. Various teachers are also available throughout the day in the library’s tutoring center.

A peer-to-peer tutoring system is offered by the National Honor Society as well. Students can sign up via a Google Form to be matched with an NHS student who specializes in the requested subject and has the same free period(s). Tutors and tutees meet in the multipurpose room, guidance office, or a teacher’s classroom.

The Brooklyn Latin School (Brooklyn Latin)

Requiring four years of Latin, laboratory science, and a lengthy research paper, plus an emphasis on public speaking and debate, Brooklyn Latin is certainly rigorous. But the school also offers proper support and guidance for students (called “discipuli,” Latin for “student”).

Freshmen receive extra support via an orientation program and from advisory groups, and they travel to the Princeton-Blairstown Center for outdoor bonding in the fall.

Both freshmen and older students who need additional help are encouraged to meet with teachers (“magistri”) during office hours, like at colleges and universities. Additional “disculpi support” includes individual counseling, group counseling, and grade level support systems.

Brooklyn Latin employs four guidance counselors to answer questions and address concerns, and a special needs tutor provides one-on-one support to special needs students.

Brooklyn Technical High School (Brooklyn Tech)

With 5,000 students, Brooklyn Tech is the largest of the specialized high schools. This might make it difficult for students to receive individual attention, but the school attempts to manage stress levels through engaging classwork and supportive programs.

The school emphasizes hands-on learning, believing that students process information better when they can “see, touch, feel, and do things.” Although Brooklyn Tech holds students to high expectations, the school lacks the competitive pressure that characterizes many other challenging schools.

On the school website, an entire section is devoted to “Freshman 101.” It features helpful articles and videos, a Freshman Guidebook, and tips on test-taking, note management, test anxiety, study skills, and more.

There’s a teacher tutoring schedule that allows students to work with any instructor on campus (not just their own). National Honor Society students are also available for peer-to-peer tutoring on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during periods 9, 10, and 11.

High School for Mathematics, Science, and Engineering at City College (HSMSE)

Due to its small size (about 500 students), HSMSE is by nature a close-knit and supportive community. Still, additional programs exist to help stressed or struggling students.

All freshmen complete a Freshman Academy Course, where they learn study skills and research methods. Teachers provide tutoring before school, after school, and sometimes even during school hours. There’s also a peer tutoring program hosted by the National Honor Society, and Saturday Academy is occasionally offered from 10 AM until 1 PM.

HSMSE also has an on-site Wellness Center in partnership with The New York Foundling. The center provides school-based family, group, and individual counseling, parent workshops, crisis support, staff trainings, and referrals to external mental health and social services. They address concerns including time management, stress, anxiety, self-image, academic difficulties, and much more.

High School of American Studies at Lehman College (HSAS)

Another small specialized high school, HSAS enrolls under 400 students. Students all know one another, creating a less competitive environment, and they’re given a voice in school decisions, such as voting on science electives for the following year.

The school employs a four-day-week class cycle, meaning students get a one-night break from homework for each class weekly.

Freshmen receive plenty of support, allowing them to adjust to the rigors of HSAS. In history classes, they’re first taught how to take structured notes to help them organize information. They also take a grammar class and a research class co-taught by a Lehman College librarian and an HSAS teacher.

When juniors and seniors take their first course at Lehman, they get a recitation class, which is basically a study hall. An HSAS teacher monitors completion of assignments and their overall college performance. Additionally, all teachers are available for extra help after school.

Queens High School for the Sciences at York College (Queens)

The philosophy at Queens is that students learn best when nurtured in a small learning community. For this reason, the school only accepts about 100 students annually, and total enrollment numbers roughly 430 students.

Principal Ana De Jesus hosts a monthly “Pizza Chat” for a small gathering of 25 students. To reserve a seat, students sign up with a Google Form. Students are encouraged to bring their “questions, comments, suggestions, and compliments.” Links for both student and parent feedback are also supplied on the school’s website.

Based on responses to parent surveys, Queens hosts parent workshops on topics like helping kids deal with stress and anxiety, graduation requirements, summer programs, the college application process, and suicide prevention.

In addition to providing a nurturing environment and encouraging feedback from students and parents, Queens offers tutoring before and after school. The tutoring schedule is posted on the school website.

Staten Island Technical High School (SI Tech)

SI Tech has a welcoming and engaging atmosphere, and homework is typically limited to 2-3 hours per night. Still, just like at other specialized high schools, students sometimes feel academic pressure.

To create a friendly area where students can receive assistance, the school has concentrated all guidance counselors and deans in one wing of one floor. Students have gym class daily to help reduce stress and keep them physically and mentally healthy.

SI Tech employs five guidance counselors and two school aides, and a college office and Career Development Center (CDC) help students make sometimes difficult decisions about their futures.

Stuyvesant High School (Stuy)

Stuyvesant is perhaps the most sought after specialized high school, with more than 28,000 students competing for just over 800 seats in the freshman class. It has a reputation for both talented students and high stress levels.

But Principal Eric Contreras says he wants to focus on his students’ emotional needs too, saying, “It’s equally important that we provide the right support when [students] find it overwhelming.” Some changes include hiring an additional guidance counselor, having guidance counselors host freshman transition meetings, and building central and more welcoming guidance offices.

There’s an AP tutoring schedule and an A.I.S. tutoring schedule, and teachers are generous with their time after school. Homework guidelines stipulate that assignments should be designed to take an average of 30 minutes per night, although AP classes may require work up to 60 minutes per night. A test day policy prevents multiple teachers from scheduling exams on the same day. If any of these policies are violated, students are encouraged to speak to an Assistant Principal to resolve the issue.

The school website also features a variety of helpful resources, including writing exemplars in a variety of subjects. Contreras continues to “explore additional ways to support our students, families and staff.”

Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts (LaGuardia)

At LaGuardia, students’ days are packed: Classes typically run from 8 AM to 4 PM, and most students have rehearsals after school, in addition to about three hours of homework nightly. The school is also large, with about 34 students in each class.

Still, students have the freedom to creatively pursue their passions, which offsets much of the school stress they experience. The school also employs multiple guidance counselors for each department (art, music, drama, technical theater) to help students with academic and post-secondary planning, in addition to social and emotional support. Students needing more intensive support may utilize the school’s Wellness Center.

Conclusion

Attending one of New York City’s specialized high schools does come with additional rigor, work, stress, and pressure. There’s no denying this fact.

However, students and parents should be encouraged by the various programs and support systems available. The majority of specialized high schools have multiple tutoring programs in place, plus events and activities designed to promote a welcoming sense of community. Many of these schools also have freshman transition courses or programs, parent workshops, wellness centers, and a variety of student resources.

They tend to be responsive to feedback from students and parents as well. The specialized high schools are devoted to challenging their students, but they want to support them too.