New York City’s charter school system continues to grow, with more schools each year and more students accepted into them.

Indeed, since 1999, the NYC charter school system has grown from two schools serving some 300 students to more than 200 schools with nearly 100,000.

If you’re considering a charter school for your child for the 2016-2017 school year, here’s what you need to know.

What is a charter school?

Charter schools are public, independently run schools.

How are they different from traditional public schools?

Because they are independent, charter schools have more flexibility in their operations — from setting curriculum to length of school day and calendar year. If a school does not adhere to the promises of its charter in areas such as academic achievement and financial management, it can be closed.

Who can apply?

Charter schools must take students on a first-come, first-served basis, regardless of their needs or grades. The earliest most charter schools begin is kindergarten, though some offer pre-K.

How do you apply?

The admissions process varies by school, so it’s best to check with each school individually. Some, but not all, use a common application. For the 2016-2017 school year, more than 70% of charter schools and networks are using the Common Online Charter School Application. Students can apply to as many schools as they want.

When’s the deadline?

The deadline also varies by school, though most are due by April 1 if not earlier. The common application is due by March 30.

Who’s accepted?

When more students apply than there are seats, the school must hold a lottery. By law, charter schools must give priority in the lottery to siblings of currently enrolled students and to students who live in the school’s community school district. Additional preferences vary by charter school and might include academically at-risk students, students with disabilities, English Language Learners and children of school staff. Students not selected via lottery may be placed on a waitlist.