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'Make the best impression possible'

Below is a sampling of the steps parents and children must take to apply to some charter schools and Boston's pilot schools. School officials say they often make exceptions for those who cannot complete the steps.

River Valley Charter School in Newburyport

Parents: Complete an application, attend a school information meeting, tour the school, and sign an agreement stating that they understand that the school expects each family to volunteer 40 hours a year at the school and contribute to the annual fund.

Sturgis Charter Public School in Hyannis

Students: Fill out an application listing favorite subjects, favorite book read since sixth grade, and extracurricular activities. Submit two typewritten essays on why they are choosing Sturgis and on their favorite teacher. The essays "should be an example of your best writing" and should be edited "to make the best impression possible," according to the application.

New Mission High School, Boston pilot school

Parents: Attend an open house and agree to participate in reviews of children's work three times a year.

Students: Fill out an application, including essay about themselves and why they want to attend the school. Submit transcript. All applicants enter lottery, and some are selected for interviews in which they are asked to reflect on their academic experiences and explain why New Mission is the right match. Incoming freshmen are encouraged to attend five-week academic summer camp.

Health Careers Academy, Boston pilot school

Parents: Fill out form describing children's strengths and weaknesses.

Students: Attend information session and submit application that includes an essay about themselves, their families, hobbies and aspirations, and short answer questions. Submit transcript and two teacher recommendations. All applicants enter lottery.

SOURCE: Globe interviews; charter and pilot school websites.