Is your 8th grader ready for high school? Get ahead and apply now for MCPS specialized programs

Heather Jauquet

The application window is open for magnet and interest-based programs throughout MCPS
MCPS opens online applications for high school programs offered throughout the countyGlenn Carstens-Peters/Unsplash

On October 7, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) opened applications for criterion-based and interested-based programs available to eligible and interested 8th-grade students. From October 7 to November 4, eligible 8th-grade students have the opportunity to apply to programs throughout the county. Where you live in the county will determine which programs are available to your student. 

While the programs available are interested-based or criterion-based, all of the programs use the same application process. The streamlined application process allows students to fill out one online application for all the programs. Students can access the online application form through their parent’s MCPS ParentVue account. Parents can direct questions about ParentVue accounts to their child's school counseling secretary or registrar.

Interest-Based Programs

Each student will have a list of interest-based programs for which they are eligible based on their current address. Admission into any of these programs is through a lottery. Acceptance and enrollment to any program are on the condition that the student is eligible for the program based on address. 

Criterion-Based Programs

Each student will have a list of criterion-based programs for which they are eligible based on their current address and current middle school. Criterion-based programs consider a variety of multiple measures that may include report card grades as well as an external assessment. Outside assessments can consist of the Measures of Academic Progress Reading (MAP-R), Measures of Academic Progress Math (MAP-M), and Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP). Acceptance and enrollment to any application programs are on the condition that the student is eligible for the program. 

Criterion-based programs include an extra step in the application process where students complete short answer and essay questions. According to the slideshow presented by MCPS, "The written responses are visible to the selection committee to help present a holistic view of the student" and students are to write their answers without assistance. 

The regional and countywide International Baccalaureate (IB) Magnet Programs are criterion-based programs that require a world language experience. Applicants must have one or more years’ experience in a target language taken during middle school, attendance in a language immersion program, or be bilingual in a target language. MCPS has language immersion programs in Spanish, French, and Chinese that begin in elementary school.

The Visual Art Center at Albert Einstein High School is a criterion-based program that requires a portfolio for consideration into the program. 

Not sure of your student’s eligibility?

Every 8th grader received a letter from MCPS describing their program eligibility. Find your child's eligibility letter under the documents tab on the ParentVue account. 

The application window is October 7 through November 4. Students will receive notification of results the first week of February 2023.

Direct questions to the Division of Consortia Choice and Application Program Services (DCCAPS). Email

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Certified educator K-12 and Reading Specialist with a focus on the adolescent brain. I write about how educational decisions affect parents, students, and staff. As an educator and parent I also focus on community events for the whole family.


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