Student-centric advice and objective recommendations
Higher education has never been more confusing or expensive. Our goal is to help you navigate the very big decisions related to higher ed with objective information and expert advice. Each piece of content on the site is original, based on extensive research, and reviewed by multiple editors, including a subject matter expert. This ensures that all of our content is up-to-date, useful, accurate, and thorough.
Our reviews and recommendations are based on extensive research, testing, and feedback. We may receive commission from links on our website, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted. You can find a complete list of our partners here.
How Does a School Lottery System Work?
School lottery systems are being used more and more often due to the high demand for charter schools. You might be asking yourself, “how does a school lottery system work?” Luckily, we are here to answer that very question, so keep reading if you are interested in lottery schools!
Why do some schools use lotteries?
Charter schools have specific enrollment periods where parents can register their children. However, due to the high demand of charter schools, there might not be enough enrollment spots to allow all applicants to attend the school of choice.
To fix this problem, charter schools usually turn to what is known as a school lottery system. Because charter schools are public and tuition-free institutions, they do not require any type of admissions process such as interviews or essays. Therefore, the most fair way of selecting who can attend charter schools is through a school lottery system.
What is a school lottery system?
A school lottery system is a random selection process for determining which students will attend. The lottery system aims to give all applicants an equal chance of being admitted. A school lottery system only occurs when more students apply for admission than can be admitted.
How do schools conduct the lottery?
There is not one universal method or way of administering the school lottery. However, there are certain criteria that every charter school must follow to ensure that they are as fair as possible in the selection process.
The method of the lottery should be transparent, random, and conducted in accordance with the policy of the specific charter of the particular charter school. There are many different methods of lotteries that are fair and random. The two main categories of these fair lottery systems are computer-generated randomization and human randomization.
Some charter schools use a computer-generated randomization to ensure that the lottery is truly random and free of any human error. There are many software programs specifically designed for this purpose to ensure that the lottery drawings are fair.
Charter schools may decide to use human randomization methods. For example, schools may choose to draw names from a jar or choose popsicle sticks from a box. These methods, although effective, can lead to a lot of questioning in regards to bias or preferential treatment. Therefore, it is critical that the charter school ensures there are no errors in the performance of human randomization lotteries.
Don’t miss: What is a magnet school?
Is there any way to bypass the school lottery system?
A charter school may utilize enrollment priorities if authorized by their charter. An enrollment priority allows a charter school to offer certain students enrollment prior to a lottery system.
For example, some charter schools allow siblings to be granted enrollment priority. This means the siblings of a student who has already been enrolled in a charter school will not have to go through the lottery process.
Related: All about parochial schools
What happens if you are not selected by the lottery?
If all of the enrollment slots have become filled after the lottery, the students who were not selected will be added to a wait list. The lottery method will continue to determine in what order students will be put on the waitlist.
The waitlist should be continuously updated as students are admitted. This will allow the position of any student to be known and allow parents to stay updated on the status of their children’s admission.
Also see: Public vs private K-12: What to consider
Frequently asked questions about school lotteries
Do you have to reapply for the school lottery if you were admitted to the charter school in prior years?
No! Students who have been attending the charter school do not need to reapply and participate in the lottery.
Are school lotteries fair?
Whether school lotteries are fair is the topic of sometimes heated debate. One argument claims that some students work harder than others only to be denied entry to their school of choice. Others say that a lottery system is the only way to ensure fairness and level the playing field for all students. Hopefully, all students will soon attend the school that helps them reach their potential!
Also see: Finding scholarships for private K-12