How to apply to a CPS school in 5 easy steps

Written by: Didi Lewis

Photo credit: Bruno Girin/Flickr

CPS application season is well under way! The Chicago Public Schools application deadline for the 2017-2018 school year is Friday, December 9, 2016.  Students entering kindergarten through 8th grade may apply for open seats at schools across the city, with a limited number of pre-k options available as well (click here for the basics on CPS preschool). 

In CPS, there are two main types of schools to which you can apply:

  1. Magnet schools and programs – These include magnet schools, magnet cluster schools and open enrollment schools. A completed Standard Elementary Application is required; seats are determined via computerized lottery.

  2. Selective Enrollment Elementary Schools (SEES) – These include Classical Schools and Regional Gifted Centers (RGC). A completed SEES Application is required; students are selected through a testing process.

For kindergarten entry at any CPS school, children must be age 5 by September 1 of the year they are entering kindergarten.  

Here's an abbreviated guide to getting the application process started in 5 manageable steps:

‚ÄčSTEP 1: Request a PIN. Go to (Step 1: Apply Online) by November 28, 2016 to request a PIN for your child(ren). One PIN is assigned per household and sent via mail to your home address, typically within 5 business days of your request. 

STEP 2: Schedule a test date if you wish to have your child tested for SEES. Once you have your PIN, you can return to (Step 2: Returning User) and schedule your child’s test(s). There are two separate tests for Classical Schools and RGCs. If applying to kindergarten for both types of schools, both tests will be administered on the same day. Testing will occur November 2016 through February 2017, or until all applicants have been tested. Students who take their test by November 17, 2016 will receive their test results before the December 9, 2016 deadline.

STEP 3: Apply. Select the schools for which you want to apply via Standard Elementary and/or SEES Application.

  1. For the Standard Elementary Application, you can choose up to 20 schools with no ranking required for the lottery.

  2. For the SEES Application, you can select up to 6 Classical and/or RGC schools and must rank them in order of preference.

STEP 4:  Submit your application by 11:59pm CST on December 9, 2016. Don’t forget to click “SUBMIT” when you are ready to submit your application with your school choices! You should receive confirmation of your submitted application. Notification letters and test results (for students who took their exam(s) after November 17, 2016) will be posted to your online application portal (or mailed to paper applicants) on April 3, 2017

STEP 5: Visit the schools you are most interested in. This is a very important step in the process and ideally should be done before you select schools and submit your application. Check out each school’s profile page to get an overview, contact each school for tour dates and open houses, plan visits, and try to connect with parents whose children attend the schools you’re considering.  Bear in mind that the “hottest” schools might not be the best fit for your child. Also, don’t underestimate your own neighborhood school, as it may be a “hidden gem” and the perfect place for your child--and for you and your family to become part of an active school community.

These are just the basic steps in the CPS application process. Please note that there may be variations to these steps, depending on the particular programs and/or grades your child is applying to. Visit for more information and details. 

Remember: No application is required for your neighborhood school. Every street address in the city is assigned to a neighborhood school where your child is guaranteed a seat. However, keep in mind that the public school nearest to your home may not necessarily be your neighborhood school (even if it’s right across the street!). Enter your primary residential address on the CPS School Locator to determine your neighborhood school. Then contact the school directly for a registration timeline and other pertinent information for incoming students and families.

Looking ahead to the 2018-2019 school year (or beyond)? Keep your eye on the NPN Chicago School Choice events calendar for our next round of CPS 101 presentations next spring—more guidance and tips for learning about CPS and successfully navigating the public school selection and application process. 

Related articles:

The ABCs of applying to CPS preschools

You will find the right school for your child

9 questions parents should be asking schools


Posted on November 13, 2014 at 1:07 AM