Look below for an overview of the HoustonISD Magnet Programs and how to apply!
HISD Magnet Programs offer specialized curriculum and opportunities related to a given theme, including theme based electives and other learning opportunities. If you are interested in attending one of these schools, instead of your zoned school, you need to apply the year before.
It's almost time to apply for 2023-2024 HoustonISD Magnet Schools! (But instead of starting in September, this year, applications will open in December.)
Over the last 12 years, I've applied eight times to HISD Magnet Programs. The first time around, I found it very overwhelming… but over the years, I’ve almost figured it out.
In case you are also overwhelmed and confused by the HoustonISD application process, here is a summary of the process and what I know so far for 2022.
For the official information on applying to HoustonISD Magnet Schools, go HERE.
AND if you know of updates for this year, leave us a comment!
HISD Magnet Program Key Dates For The 2023-2024 School Year:
Update for 2022: HISD will be opening phase one of the school choice application in December 2022 through February 2023. Phase two of the application process will open in April 2023 and go through June 2023. This will provide families with the time to settle into the current school year before they have to decide on the school that they want to attend for the next school year. The district is also rolling out a new application system to help streamline and improve the school choice application experience.
- School Choice Fairs (Optional, but informative)
- School Tours
- December 14, 2022 – February 2, 2023 – Deadline for Phase I (first round) Magnet applications.
- April 5, 2023 – Start of Phase II application window. (Note that the most popular Magnet Schools will fill in Phase 1. If you are trying to get into one of these schools, you really need to apply for Phase 1.)
- For Vanguard Magnet Programs, you will need to request a test:
- The HISD school where he/she is enrolled, or, if not enrolled in HISD
- The HISD school where he/she is zoned to attend.
- Get details HERE.
- April 5, 2023 – Notification Date
- The official Phase I notification of a students’ lottery outcome will be viewable within the online application dashboard.
- TBD – Deadline for accepting your seat.
- Documentation (recent proof of residency and a signed Magnet entrance agreement) must be turned in.
- Students will remain on the waitlist of all programs which parents ranked higher than the highest program to which a seat is offered.
Recent Changes to the HISD Magnet Application Process & Answers to FAQs:
In case you have not applied in several years, some things have changed.
- Magnet and Choice transfers are submitted using one system.
- Families can select up to 10 school programs, with a maximum of 5 magnet programs.
- You can apply online or with paper… but with just one method. You use the same application for all school choices.
- It only takes 10 minutes to complete… but deciding on which schools to apply to can take longer. There are a lot of open houses and school tours that help you decide.
- Your favorite school is likely the favorite school of hundreds of other families. You will likely want to apply for several schools.
- When HISD contacts parents of the outcome of the applications, all applications ranked below the top choice will be dropped automatically. Any programs you are wait listed that rank above the highest accepted choice, remain active. See the example HERE.
- In the past, students needed to be in attendance on day one of school. Magnet seats were not saved if there were zoned students to fill the spaces.
- New a few years ago: Pre-K Enrollment address exception transfers will not be renewed for students who will be five years of age on or before September 1, 2022. Therefore, any students offered a seat at a magnet campus for prekindergarten grade levels must reapply for a magnet seat to remain at the magnet campus for their kindergarten school year.
What You Need To Know About HoustonISD:
The school that you are zoned to is your neighborhood school and the one that your child will be automatically accepted into (as long as it is not too full).
If you don’t already know which school you are zoned to, go to THIS website, type in your address, and choose the grade level your child will be in for the school year.
If you are happy with your neighborhood school and want your child to go there, you don’t need to worry about the magnet application process*. (One note is that a few HoustonISD neighborhood schools are over full. Call your zoned school to see if there is any issue at all with attending your local neighborhood school.) Contact the school to find out what you need to do to enroll your child and when to do it.
*One more note on zoned schools and Vanguard Programs: If you are going to your zoned school and it’s not a Vanguard Magnet School (like Wilson, Poe, etc), your kids will be tested at school for the Vanguard Neighborhood Program. If you are going to your zoned school and it’s a Vanguard Magnet (like ROE, Travis, etc), the official word from HISD is: “In October, when the online application system opens, go ahead and apply to ROE, even if you are zoned. You will be provided details about testing.” You can also contact your zoned school to get all the details.
If you would like the opportunity for your child to attend a school you are not zoned to, you will have apply for a magnet transfer. THIS is the part of HISD’s website about the magnet programs.
Each magnet school has a specialized theme that is incorporated into their classes and curriculum. For example, a fine arts magnet school may offer more exposure to music, dance, art and drama than other schools would.
You can submit up to 5 magnet school applications, of which 5 can be for Vanguard schools. Know that magnet schools can be very hard to get in to, so apply to several! Also, children must quality for Vanguard programs. In case they do not do well on the test, make sure you have selected some non-Vanguard magnet programs when you apply.
Apply online or print an application HERE.
The Vanguard Magnet schools are different than the other Magnet programs. Vanguard is HISD’s term for G/T or gifted and talented. Students must pass a test in order to be accepted as a transfer student at these schools.
You can apply to up to 5 Vanguard schools and must rank your top choices. When you apply, you will be directed to contact your zoned school for GT testing.
From the HISD website: Please contact the G/T Coordinator at your child’s current HISD school or HISD zoned campus to request testing.
I always get asked for resources to help prepare kids and parents for testing. Here is what has been recommended by other parents over the years… but review each to see what is best for you. And do NOT feel like you MUST prepare.
Kindergarten Test Prep Bundle for ITBS
Once the deadline for turning in applications has passed, the schools hold a lottery where they draw the names of the students they’ll accept. Any students who applied but were not chosen are placed on a waiting list in the order their names were drawn.
Many of the schools that you’ll be applying to will probably have long wait lists and you are not guaranteed to be accepted as a transfer student into any of the schools that you’ve applied to. Our first year, we were waitlisted at around number 320 for one of them, in the 200s for another and actually got in to one school.
So, if you really don’t want your child to attend your zoned school you should to turn in applications to more schools to increase your chance of acceptance.
Status notifications (whether you’ve been accepted or your number on the waitlist) are online, usually in January (and will be sent via mail).
If you are on a waitlist you can monitor the changes online through the parent dashboard.
If you are accepted you have two weeks to inform the school of your “intent to attend”.
Your place on any higher ranked waitlists will remain the same, so if you receive a spot at your second choice school, but are waitlisted at your first, accepting the second choice will not affect your chances of getting into your first choice.
Those of you who have, or who plan to have, additional children may be wondering if you’ll have to go through this whole process again. The answer is yes, but special consideration is currently given to siblings in the lottery.
Find the latest information, HERE. One thing I noticed (that is new to me) is that if one of your kids is accepted to a school but the other is denied, the FAQs say that another transfer type can be requested for principal approval to keep siblings together. Please contact the Office of School Choice for more information.
The FAQs also say that students who have siblings that will also attend the same magnet school will have limited priority in the application process for initial grade level (like kindergarten, 6th or 9th).
For Vanguard schools the younger child(ren) will have to pass the Vanguard test, but as long as they do the above will hold true for them as well.
For twins (and all multiples), you can have them treated like all other siblings or opt to have all the children receive one lottery spot. All will be offered a seat or all placed on the wait list. If they are on a wait list, they will not be offered seats until there is room for all of them. (Each sibling must have a separate application on file.)
After all this, there is a good chance you will not get into your first choice school. I've certainly had my heart broken by the HoustonISD lottery. Maybe THIS post will encourage you.
Rachel Massey says
Thanks for the info! Please add me to your email list
Jill Jarvis says
Normally, students who were in HISD the entire 2018-2019 school year and currently enrolled in HISD are not required to submit any documents to apply to Magnet Programs. The District Matrix and Overall Core average will be automatically calculated and visible on the Magnet application portal for students who apply to High School Magnet programs online and provide their HISD ID#. However, there are several options this year to submit documents for students who were not in HISD last year or for those who are missing documents.
Georgia Herrera says
Hey Jill!! Do you have any idea if they've approved the school calendar for 2020-2021? Isn't this crazy?! I totally stumbled on this blog and scrolled to.the end and was like...'hey!! I know her!' Ha ha!
Jill Jarvis says
🙂 I haven't seen it... but I bet you will know before I do!!
Happy New Year!
Alison Yancy says
Does any one know about how many people actually get off the waiting list? I have twins and we got mostly horrible spots on all the wait list but one of my Twins got #37, we have only moved down to #31. I'm trying to figure out if we even have a chance? Or if anyone has experience with the wait list?
Jill Jarvis says
It depends on the school! Here's a recent document with the numbers applying to each school (from a couple years ago, but it will give you a general idea). https://www.houstonisd.org/cms/lib2/TX01001591/Centricity/Domain/21217/Percent_apps_accepted.pdf
37 isn't too bad... but I don't know how much your school will move!
Jubilee McGuire says
Do you happen to know when the application process opens for next School year (2021-22)? Thx!
Jill Jarvis says
Not yet, but I'll be watching!
If my child gets accepted into his 1st choice school and we accept the spot, are we still able to choose to go to our zoned school (ie we get accepted into Travis, but are zoned to Wharton, and we accept the spot at Travis but then decide, before the school year starts, that we want to go to Wharton)?
Jill Jarvis says
As long as your zoned school is not over-crowded, you should be able to do it. In this example, Wharton would be able to tell you for sure. (A couple of years ago we accepted our seat at the magnet school but wanted to switch to our zoned school... but our grade was over crowded and we had to wait to get in.)
Also, if you start at the magnet school and want to leave mid-year, you can only switch back to your zoned school (and not another magnet school).
Worried Mama says
We got waitlisted at #3 for our top choice school which is also our zoned school for prek. I used your chart regarding percentages of getting in, but it is kind of dated. Do you have anything more recent? Our area has been heavily gentrified and now our school is more popular as it has been improved.
Jill Jarvis says
I don't know of a newer chart but I will look!
Ann Hamilton says
I recently moved here to Texas this year. I moved from Louisiana. While there I was and still is homeschooling my daughter. She should be going to the six grade. I have a Houston address I am currently living in southwest Houston. My daughter attended HISD school in third grade. She was tested at that time and scored very high in the vanguard gifted and talented program. What do I need to do to get her tested sense she has not been attending HISD school. I would appreciate your assistance. thank you.
Jill Jarvis says
Ann - You can contact your zoned school to be sure, but my son attended HISD, then was homeschooled during the pandemic, and went back to HISD into a GT program. They told me that once he was qualified for GT, he was always qualified. The only trick here is that they needed proof... and I had to go find an old GT test result paper from 2011. (Things may have moved online since then, but having some proof of the test results is probably easiest.) Whatever the case, your zoned school can tell you the official process and also test her as needed. Jill
Hi Jill, thanks for the detailed info. Do you know when GT exam results are announced? I saw that January 27, 2022 is the Notification Date for the lottery outcome, but when are we being notified about the GT exam results? Thanks in advance!
Jill Jarvis says
I haven't had my own kids tested in a while, so I'm not certain. From the following document on HoustonISD, parents will be notified in March (if it is up to date). Definitely if you are accepted into a Vanguard school, you have to know if you are GT qualified or not.
HISD GT document: https://www.houstonisd.org/cms/lib2/TX01001591/Centricity/Domain/8034/GT%20FAQ.pdf
Update for those applying in 2023 for the 2023-24 school year: The following is no longer correct: "Families can select up to 10 school programs, with a maximum of 5 magnet programs." As per the HISD School Choice Website: "You may apply to a maximum of 10 programs or campuses and will not have a limit of magnet programs as in past application years."
In other news, for those who have twins applying in the magnet lottery, multiples can no longer receive sibling preference with one another when applying at the same time separately. They can apply together and be placed on one ticket, or apply separately and be treated like unrelated separate applicants. (This is per an HISD representative on Facebook and the magnet coordinator at Pin Oak Middle School.)
Jill Jarvis says