NYC school finder

Improving school selection for NYC students

screenshot of school profile page for cardozo high school

The client

The NYC Department of Education's goal was to make it easy for any student in the city to apply to high school.

The challenge

The NYC DOE had been receiving consistent feedback from students and parents that their printed high school directory was cumbersome and daunting.

The solution

Pivotal and the NYC DOE brought this process into the 21st century. Students and parents now have access to the entire directory online and can refine their searches using many different criteria discovering schools in seconds. This digital platform is easily updatable year after year.

My role

The NYC DOE did not have any designers on staff so I took the lead on all design related aspects of the project. I worked closely with DOE staff to better understand the high school selection process. I interviewed high school students to understand their experience with the current system and how we could improve it. Much of my time was spent rapidly testing prototypes and working alongside our engineering team.

The book

Since the Bloomberg administration, NYC has used a "choice system" for enrolling students into high school. This means that all eighth grade students can apply to any high school across the city. For years, students had to use a large printed directory to browse for their selections. Since they only had a book to browse, this meant that searching, filtering, and favoriting schools was manual and time consuming. Resulting in ripped out pages, binders, and bookmarking. Students and parents quickly became frustrated with the system.

Photo of someone holding the NYC high school selection bookPhoto of NYC school selection book

Finding the right school

Our biggest challenge on this project was deciding on the best way to help students search and filter for schools. Depending on the student, there were a variety of factors that went into considering what school to apply to. Our goal was to give kids and parents the ability to filter by both geographical location and school attributes such as admissions method, school size and more.

screenshot of filtering components


Another differentiating factor of digitizing the directory was the ability to create a favorite list of schools to share with friends and family. The favoriting system was simple and gave students a unique URL to get back to their list without needing to create an account.

screenshot of school finder favorites page
screenshot of school profile page