Who doesn’t want a spot on the roster at Academic Magnet High School? Ranked No. 15 on Newsweek‘s list of America’s Best High Schools in 2011, this school is the cream of the public-school crop in South Carolina, and if you live in Charleston County, your little scholar has a chance to get in.

Want to give your middle schoolers a shot? Start early, says Audrey Lane, deputy for organizational advancement at the Charleston County School District. Admission is based on standardized test scores, grades, teacher recommendations, and a writing sample, so you’ll want to push for the harder classes starting in middle school. And of course you can’t get into the advanced middle school classes without first getting into advanced elementary school classes, so start looking at the gifted-and-talented options during the later elementary school years.

“Because it’s a school that’s going to look at quantitative things, you want students to be as studious as possible,” Lane says. Under enough pressure yet? Here are a few other pointers on making the cut:

• The application requires letters of recommendation from three teachers, so encourage your children to build good relationships with teachers. It’s the same advice you would give to an undergrad with an eye on grad school, and for the same reason.

• Teach good test-taking skills. Like it or not, students need to rank in the 85th percentile or higher on the PASS test to get in.

• Make sure you get a head start on math. All incoming freshmen have to have Algebra 1 under their belts.

• Look up the application requirements and deadlines at the beginning of the eighth grade year. The deadline for 2012 freshman enrollment already passed at the beginning of December, and there were multiple open-house opportunities in November.

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