Playing the Lottery: A Gamble Some Students Are Willing To Take

On Tuesday, March 22, at 11 a.m, Tracy Martin and Lauren Van Deren were drawing important slips of paper from a not-so-important-looking brown box in the Guidance Office.

This is the lottery. Not Powerball Lottery, but equally as life-changing for many students. Martin and Van Deren were picking the students who applied to attend Stowe High School next school year.

If you live outside of the school district of a school you wish to attend, you can do one of two things: pay tuition, or enter the lottery. Simply fill out an application and turn it in to your current school; from there, your name is sent to the local lottery, and put in a box. Then, your name is drawn to determine if you can attend or get waitlisted.


Martin, who is in charge of lotteries for 19 schools, says there were 29 applicants to Stowe this year, but only two slots available. The students who are not the 1st or 2nd picked out of the box go onto the waiting list.

If you’re 3rd or 4th picked, Martin said, there’s a small chance you can still get in, if one of the top two drops out. But 5th and onward have virtually no chances of attending this year.

Martin said she’ll get, “big, long letters from kids who apply [for the lottery], but I don’t ever read them. The lottery is completely by chance.”

Martin also draws for kids who wish to leave the schools they currently attend. Small schools, she explains, can’t just have tons and tons of kids leaving; consequently, she can draw kids who leave their school and the same kids into another school.

“I’ve seen more and more apply for Chittenden county,” Martin adds. U-32, Stowe, and CVU are all highly sought-after schools for the lottery. This year, U-32 had 38 applicants, and 4 slots available.


Van Deren pulled out slips of paper and read the names to Martin, who entered the names into a complicated-looking spreadsheet. “You have to be very careful [when writing in the sheet]; if you mess up, it all snowballs.” Martin said.

Any student, Martin explains, can choose up to three public schools they wish to enter the lottery for, as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice schools. When not chosen for your first-choice school, your name is moved to your second choice, and your 3rd choice after that.

The lottery is a cost-free way to go to school anywhere in the state; you don’t pay tuition, and you are guaranteed for the full 4 years at the high school you get into, unless you move out of the state.  

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