Random Selection in Admissions

As part of the admissions process for most DOE public school programs, each applicant is assigned a random number, as in a lottery. These random numbers are used in cases where there are more applicants than seats available at a specific program.

The following video shows how these randomly assigned numbers are used to make offers. While its focus is middle school admissions, this is how random selection works in all processes that use lotteries as part of admissions, including 3-K, pre-K, kindergarten, and high school programs with an open admissions method:

To learn about random selection in the context of the larger matching process, visit schools.nyc.gov/HowAdmissionsWorks.

Click each of the frequently asked questions below to learn more about random numbers in admissions.

What is a random number?

A random number is a long string of letters and numbers, for example: B51920AF-F1C6-40EC-8E9A-3E1E50CB13BB (this is a real random number!). Random numbers are used in admissions to determine the order in which students are matched to schools during admissions. These numbers are sorted in numeric and then alphabetical order like this: 0, 1, 2 ... 9, A, B, C, D, E, F. 

For example, when the following two random numbers are sorted, the number that begins with “5” comes first:

  1. 5B1920AF-F1C6-40EC-8E9A-3E1E50CB13BB
  2. B51920AF-F1C6-40EC-8E9A-3E1E50CB13BB

How does DOE use my random number?

Random numbers are used to determine the order in which students are matched to programs. Review the "How Random Section Works" video to learn more.

  • Each applicant receives one random number for the admissions match, which happens after the application period closes. 
  • For waitlists, each applicant receives a new random number for each waitlist they are on. 

Can I see my random number?

Yes, they can be provided upon request. If you are interested in knowing your random number, you should reach out to us after offers are released at:

I’ve heard that knowing my random number can help me decide whether to apply to certain schools. Is this true?

Random numbers, on their own, cannot definitively tell you your chances of getting into any specific program. In order to do so, you would need to know the random numbers of all other students applying to that same program and how your random number compares to those applicants' numbers. Here’s why:

  • The strength of your random number depends on who else applied. 
    • While the matching algorithm runs, some students who apply to the same program as you will match to a higher choice from their applications. This means they are never actually considered for a seat at that program.
    • For example, on a list of 100 applicants to a program, your random number may place you at #75. During the match, it’s possible that 30 students with a stronger random number match to a more preferred choice, meaning that your actual position would jump to #45. With tens of thousands of applicants and hundreds of programs, this is pretty common.
  • Eligibilities and priorities matter. 
    • Many schools are open only to specific applicants (such as students who live or go to school in that same district or borough) and/or use priority groups, which means that these schools make offers to some groups of students before other groups.
    • In these cases, all students from a program's first priority group get offers before any students from the second priority group, regardless of random number.
    • If there are more applicants than seats in a priority group, the random number is used to determine offers to individual students within that priority group.

What’s the best advice on how to build my application?

The choices on your application and the order in which you list them matter! Here are three key strategies:

  1. List your application choices in your true order of preference: there is no advantage to listing them in any other order.
    • You will always be considered first for your first-choice program, and listing programs lower on your application will not affect your chances of getting an offer to them if you don't match to your favorite program.
    • As a reminder, you will automatically be added to the waitlists of any programs listed higher on your application than the program where you received an offer.
    • If you get your first-choice offer, you will not be added to any waitlists automatically.
  2. List a balance of high-demand and average-demand programs on your application.
    • If you have, say, four programs of interest that are high-demand, you should definitely list them!
    • But also consider adding other options that are average demand. This helps ensure that you get an offer to a program you want.
  3. List more options than just a few favorites. 
    • Yes, list your current favorite choices, and then learn about additional programs so you can list more options you'd truly like your child to attend.
    • Learn more about building a strong, balanced application on each of our admissions pages, which include video series and detailed information about each process, including how offers are made and how to know your chances of getting offers to specific programs.
    • Applying to high school? List no fewer than 12 choices on your application, and also be sure to apply to programs that use a variety of admissions methods (not just to screened and audition programs). The digital High School Admissions Guide provides detailed guidance for high school applicants, including information about screened or audition programs where applicants are evaluated, scored, and ranked as part of the admissions process.
Back to Top