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The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

EXPLAINER: how admissions criteria have changed through the years

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In the fall of 2022, eighth graders from across the city applied to Townsend Harris in a completely different manner compared to previous years. The admissions process has changed repeatedly since the pandemic, making it difficult for families to keep track of the expectations. Recently, The Classic reported on how the members of the class of 2027, this year’s freshman class, viewed the new criteria. 

With great interest focused on the THHS admissions process, this brief timeline of the various admissions criteria employed at Townsend Harris since the 1990s explains how things have changed prior to the introduction of the most recent criteria.

Admissions Pre-Pandemic

According to numerous archival pages from the Townsend Harris website, provided by the Internet Archive, this system existed with little variation since at least the early 2000s. The first saved version of the THHS website, from June 1998, lists the following criteria for admissions:

“Students throughout New York City who will have completed the eighth grade by June are eligible to apply for admission to the ninth grade. (Also, a limited number of tenth grade seats will be available.) Students who are interested in applying for admission to Townsend Harris High School should confer with a guidance counselor or a grade advisor to determine whether the program meets their needs. Applicants should demonstrate evidence of academic motivation and achievement.”

Criteria posted in 1999. (The Wayback Machine, Archive.org)

The same statement appears on all versions of the website into the early 2000s.

Criteria from the 2002 official THHS website. (The Wayback Machine, Archive.org)

By 2003, the criteria became more specific, and until 2020, the admissions process was fairly constant: standardized test grades, 7th-grade report cards, and attendance were all crucial components to an eighth grader’s application. The 2019 rubric remains on the THHS official site and resembles the criteria outlined in 2003. 

The criteria received more specifics by 2003, according to this image from the archived website of THHS. (The Wayback Machine, Archive.org)

Applicants had to have high report card averages to be in the top group for consideration and needed to prioritize Townsend Harris on their lists.

The 2006 criteria remained consistent. (The Wayback Machine, Archive.org)

“When I applied to Townsend Harris in 2017, I think the process was much more straightforward [than now],” Noushine Zaman, a Townsend Harris alumna, said. “I sent in my report card, and my results from the state test counted, and it was as simple as that. I then went to orientation and simply demonstrated my interest. And now with the present day’s Townsend Harris application process, I believe it is significantly different and takes a much more holistic approach. It [seems] similar to a college application process.”

The 2018 criteria remained much the same as in the early 2000s. (The Wayback Machine, Archive.org)

Admissions During the Pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, many things changed. In the fall of 2020, eighth graders eagerly waited to learn how the DOE would change the admissions process given the situation. Given the global emergency, attendance could no longer count. In addition, standardized tests were canceled for spring 2020, making that criteria unusable. 

According to a Classic article from 2021, “the ranking system uses the academic performances of students to create composite scores that are used to split students into different ‘batches’. Students in batch 1, the highest pool that ranges from scores of 91 to 100 percent, are selected first. If there are remaining spots, this process is repeated for the next lowest ranking pools until all spots are filled.  40 percent of this ranking will be determined by sixth grade State Test scores, 50 percent by applicants’ final sixth-grade report card, and 10 percent by seventh-grade first term grades (in previous years, attendance also factored into this score).” In addition to this rank-based lottery system, THHS allocated 50% of spots to low income students. 

Admissions after Remote Learning

This year, Townsend Harris implemented a video, a humanities essay, and a STEM essay into their admissions policies. Each essay had to be 250-500 words long, and submitted through the MySchools admissions portal. For the humanities essay, students had to read “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and choose between two different prompts to answer based on the passage. They also had to choose between two other prompts for the STEM essay Lastly, students were required to record a two-minute-long video in which they introduced themselves and identified “two talents, interests, abilities, or gifts [they] possess that would enrich [the] school community.” In total, the essays and the video counted as sixty percent of the overall application score (twenty percent each), while the remaining forty percent included grades for finals in seventh grade and the first two terms in eighth grade. Attendance was removed from the criteria. The class of 2027 was the first group of rising freshmen to ever go through this process.

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About the Contributors
Zoe Quijote
Zoe Quijote, Photography Staff Member
Zoe is a freshman at Townsend Harris High School and a staff photographer for The Classic.
Karen Lin
Karen Lin, Photography Editor / Social Media Editor
Karen is a senior at Townsend Harris High School. Her passions include graphic design, photography, and fine arts. In her free time, she enjoys reading or capturing moments across her five cameras.
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