UPWS Navigating 

Path to High School

High School Readiness

Preparing Students for Higher Education and Beyond


Urban Prairie Graduates

Since our first class graduated in 2017, all of our Alumni have received admittance to and attended their choice of schools. Urban Prairie graduates have a strong sense of self, know their strengths and weaknesses, and have a strong capacity to advocate for themselves. Their Urban Prairie experience developed the skills they needed to find success at the following schools.

  • Chicago High School for the Arts (audition required)
  • Chicago Waldorf School
  • DeLaSalle High School
  • Global Citizens Academy
  • Jones College Prep (selective enrollment)
  • Lane Tech College Prep (selective enrollment)
  • Lincoln Park High School – Honors & Arts Program (audition required)
  • Rita High School
  • Trinity High School
  • Whitney M. Young Magnet High School (selective enrollment)

Hear from Our Alumni

Urban Prairie Path to High School: 
Navigating the Testing and Application Process


Dear Urban Prairie Middle School Family,

You probably chose Urban Prairie in large part because we see and grow the whole child. Our faculty and Administration travel the high school path with a whole-child view, and our intention is to partner with you as you discern your child’s right-fit high school.

Middle School at Urban Prairie prepares students for high school life in several ways: 

  • Grading: Introducing the concept of “grading” in 6th grade; assigning official grades in 7th grade, which will be submitted to high schools.
  • Sense of self / personal responsibility
    • Instilling in students a sense of personal responsibility – that their grades are in their own hands – by participating in class, completing and turning in assignments in a timely manner, taking good notes, asking questions, and studying for block tests 
    • Teaching students to advocate for themselves by reaching out to their teachers for help if they are struggling
  • Relationship building: Encountering new teachers for Morning Lesson in Middle School, and figuring out those new relationships in the safe and supportive environment of Urban Prairie

Families have their own role in the high school process, including:

  • Fit: Discern what will be the right fit for your student in a high school – consider your whole child: academics, social-emotional fit, and the culture of the school. Be in conversation with your teacher. Visit schools. Talk to others who have gone before you or who are also discerning their student’s right fit.
  • Testing: You must register your student for their test(s), as well as any test prep your student will take.
  • Application: You must create your CPS and other school application accounts so that schools can request grades from UPWS and receive test scores. This is also how you’ll submit your student’s school rankings.

Most important: Don’t panic! You have a team around you, and many of us have done this before. 

  • At school, you can reach out to faculty members, Enrollment Management Director Jenn Zielinski or Head of School Sharla Paul. 
  • You also have our group of middle school families, many of whom have ushered older children through this process. 

A note about anxiety: As your student enters middle school and nears high school, it’s important to acknowledge that there will be anxiety around testing and the high school application process. 7th graders – and middle schoolers generally – are in a developmental stage where they are prone to worry and nervousness. At some level this is healthy – it can motivate them, and bring a sense of urgency to their learning. It will be up to us, as adults, to take care that it does not reach an unhealthy level and to be sure we do not feed into that anxiety.

Below you will find important information about the high school application process and timeline, as well as resources to support your high school search.

Keep an eye out for details on a high-school planning info session, to be offered later this year. Meanwhile, we welcome your questions. Please feel free to reach out directly to me.

Warm Regards,

Sharla Paul
Head of School

High School Entrance Requirements


  • CPS: End-of-year letter grades in Math, Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies from the 7th grade year. 
  • Private and Catholic high schools: End of 7th grade and Fall of 8th grade year in Math, Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies to determine a student’s eligibility for their programs. 


  • Selective Enrollment TestNEW starting Fall 2021: CPS now requires just ONE high school entrance test for Choice and Selective Enrollment High schools. 
    • When: Late Fall/Winter of 8th grade
  • Catholic High School Entrance Exam – All archdiocese high schools require this exam, and most require that they be taken at the school that is the student’s top choice. Some schools, including De La Salle, allow students to take the exam elsewhere (e.g., St. Ignatius) and send the scores to De La Salle.
    • When: Fall of 8th grade
  • Private Independent School Entrance Exam – Many non-parochial private independent high schools require this exam for admission, but not all. (Chicago Waldorf School does not require this test.) If you are interested in a private high school always check their admissions processes. 
    • When: Fall of 8th grade

CPS High Schools

There are several types of CPS High Schools:

  • Selective Enrollment (SE) high schools provide academically advanced students with a challenging and enriched college preparatory experience. Each SE high school offers a rigorous curriculum with mainly honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Teachers expect students to be self-driven and highly engaged with their studies. These schools strive to develop students’ critical and analytical thinking skills and promote diverse academic inquiry. 
    • These schools are extremely competitive to gain entrance. Students must have all As and test scores in the high 90s
    • Learn all you can about the competitive nature of the Selective Enrollment High Schools so that you can make a realistic and sound decision on where to apply.  
    • SE acceptance is based on a 900-point system: 
      • 7th-grade cumulative grades (year-end) in Math, Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies: 450 points 
      • SE entrance exam: 450 points
    • Tiers: Once points are finalized, a geographic tier system determines if the student falls within the acceptance range. (The tiers’ intent is to provide equitable socio-economic access to SE high schools.)
  • Choice high school programs include magnet, International Baccalaureate (IB), and Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. Choice acceptance is based on a 900-point system: 
    • 7th-grade cumulative grades (year-end) in Math, Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies: 450 points 
    • SE entrance exam: 450 points
  • CPS Neighborhood School: There is no application process for neighborhood schools. 


  • CPS uses the GoCPS platform for high school applications: https://go.cps.edu/high-school
  • Private and Catholic high schools will direct you to their own application platforms. 

CPS Application Process

  • If your student is applying to CPS high school, register for an account and a test date on the GoCPS platform: https://go.cps.edu/high-school  
  • There is ONE application for CPS schools as well as ONE entrance exam for all Selective Enrollment and Choice high schools. You may rank up to 20 CPS choices, including 6 Selective Enrollment High Schools.
  • Eligibility forms with scores from the test as well as PIN (personal identification number) will be sent out 2-3 weeks after your child has taken the High School Entrance test. Once you receive the PIN number, everything else is done online – viewing all eligible schools, scheduling entrance exam date, and completing applications.  
  • Applicants have approximately two weeks to accept an offer of admission. 
Path to High School Calendar
Grade 6 Spring Schedule an initial discussion with 6th grade teacher around your hopes and plans for HS enrollment.
Grade 7 Fall

– Open House Season 

  • CPS one-time events in September & October
  • Catholic, private, IB programs offer multiple dates. 

– Hidden Gems fair: https://chischoolgps.com/hiddengems/ 


– Revisit your high school hopes and plans with your teacher. Hear their feedback.

– (Optional) Families interested in Selective Enrollment may consider private tutoring. 


– Considering Choice or SE? Take a 6- to 8-week Test Prep course, primarily focused on how to take the test, as well as some content. 

– Begin CPS application process: https://go.cps.edu/high-school

Grade 8 Fall

– Set up a Go.CPS account.

– Sign up for a High School Entrance test date. 

– UPWS submits student grades.

– Open House Season 

– CPS one-time events in September & October. 

– Catholic, private, IB programs: multiple dates. 

– Hidden Gems fair offered by Chicago Schools GPS: https://chischoolgps.com/hiddengems/ 

– Take the entrance exam(s). 

– Audition for drama and music programs or submit a portfolio for visual arts.

– Request teacher recommendations for private school applications – allow 4 weeks


– December: Submit school ranking preferences.

– January: Selective enrollment test

Late spring

– Acceptances released

– Principal discretion & 2nd round application process 


UPWS Alumni High School List

Bennett Day School

Chi-Arts (Theater, Visual Art)

Chicago Waldorf School

De La Salle Institute

Global Citizenship Experience Lab

Hancock College Prep

Jones College Prep

Kenwood Academy

Lane Tech 

Lincoln Park (Double Honors, Drama, Instrumental Music)

Lycee Francais

St. Rita of Cascia

Von Steuben Metropolitan

Whitney Young 

Wolcott College Prep 

CPS non-SE high schools to consider*

Chi-Arts (arts – must audition/provide portfolio) 

Juarez (IB, CTE – Pilsen)

Kenwood Academy (honors – Hyde Park)

Lincoln Park (honors & arts – must audition/portfolio) 

Ogden (IB – Near West)

Von Steuben Metropolitan (honors – North)

*A working list. 

Private high schools to consider*

Chicago Waldorf School

Daystar Academy (services for diverse learners) 

De La Salle Institute (services for diverse learners)

Global Citizenship Experience Lab

Wolcott College Prep (services for diverse learners)

*A working list. 

Our Programs

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Parent & Child Programs

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