2019-20 Timeline for Choosing a High School

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It’s never too soon to start looking for the right school. Some schools require students to apply nearly a full year before the start of the school year. This is the case with all of the School District of Philadelphia’s citywide- and special-admission schools. Some schools also have an extensive admissions process. Download our Before You Apply to High School toolkit to help guide you through the process. 

Two to Three Years Before Entering High School

Begin thinking about your options. Use GreatPhillySchools.org or take the Guided Search quiz to begin your search.

Visit the schools that seem as though they might be a good fit and speak with principals, teachers and parents. Use our guide to school visits to help ask the right questions.

The Year Prior to Entering High School


Visit the Philly High School Fair at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The Philadelphia High School Fair is a free opportunity to meet with Philadelphia's District, charter, and private schools. It is open to the public from 5-7pm on September 28, 2018 and from 10 am- 2pm on September 29, 2018. Admission is free and open to the public; no RSVP is required. 

Apply for financial aid if you are considering private school options. Most private schools award financial aid on a rolling basis, so applying early increases your chance of receiving a larger award package.

Attend open houses. See a list of open houses on our Event Calendar or reach out to schools directly to find out their open house schedule. 

Attend information sessions with your counselor. Counselors and teachers may hold information sessions to help parents and students choose schools and complete the online student application. Parents should ask principals for information about assistance in completing the online student application. All students and families can access District school selection resources here.

The District's School Selection Process begins on September 21, 2018. Instructions are available at schoolselect.philasd.org. The application must be submitted online and students can list up to five schools.

Apply to charter schools with Apply Philly Charter. After you decide which charter schools you want to apply to, the next step is to fill out a short, online application called Apply Philly Charter. Go to applyphillycharter.org to see the full list of participating schools accepting applications for the 2019-20 school year. You can apply to most charter schools* in Philadelphia with only one easy application! The online application for these schools opens on September 28, 2018. The deadline to apply is January 28, 2019.

*For charter schools not participating in Apply Philly Charter, contact the school directly to ask about their application process and deadlines.

Schedule a shadow day for your student. Some high schools allow prospective applicants to visit and shadow students. Families should contact schools directly. The district is encouraging high schools to hold open houses for prospective students. 

Private schools accept applications and hold entrance and scholarship exams. (Read more about applying to Catholic schools and independent private schools.)

The District's School Selection application is due November 2, 2018 at 5pm. Families are encouraged to not wait until the last day; opening an account in the SDP portal takes multiple days to finalize. Once a family opens an account, they will have to wait a few days for a confirmation email. If a family opens an account the day the application is due, they will not get the confirmation email in time to submit their application. Learn more about how to apply to a District school.

Non-District students who applied to District schools with admissions criteria must deliver transcripts and any required supplemental materials, such as essays, directly to the schools.


For charter schools accepting applications through Apply Philly Charter (applyphillycharter.org), the deadline to apply is January 28, 2019. Charter schools not participating in Apply Philly Charter may also have deadlines during this time. 

Special-admission schools make acceptance, rejection and wait-list decisions. Citywide schools choose the students who qualify to enter into the admissions lottery, based on their admissions criteria.

The District will notify students about the results of their School Selection Applications. Families are typically asked to decide between their options (if they received more than one acceptance) within a week of receiving this notification. Parents must submit an acceptance or they forfeit their spot. 

Most private schools release acceptance, rejection and wait-list decisions. Private schools may require a deposit to guarantee your student's seat for the following year.


Charter schools notify families about the outcome of their application(s). All applications submitted through Apply Philly Charter will be sent to the charter schools listed on the student’s application. Families will then be contacted by schools directly with the outcome of their application(s). For schools that run a lottery, families will be contacted by the school directly about whether their student was selected in the lottery or placed on the waitlist. For schools without a lottery, families will hear back directly from schools about whether they have been offered enrollment.

The District works with schools to fill vacancies from wait lists. If your student did not receive a placement during the School Selection Process in November, but was waitlisted, this is a great time to contact the school and discuss your chance at being accepted.

Some private schools may still be accepting applications. Visit greatphillyschools.org for a list of schools that have open seats for enrollment. 

More Information

We update this list as new information arrives, so make sure to check back. If you see information that’s missing or incorrect, please email us here.

Looking for more information on finding a great school? 
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