New York City is home to more than 200 charter schools, from networks with multiple schools, such as KIPP NYC and Achievement First, to specialized schools in areas like the arts and engineering.

With families in the midst of planning for the 2017-2018 school year, if you’re thinking of sending your child to a charter school, here are the answers to common questions.

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 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?

Students can apply to as many schools as they want. The admissions process varies by school, so it’s best to check with each school individually. Some, but not all, use the Common Online Charter School Application, which is available online. Families can also apply by visiting a school’s website or picking up an application at the school.

When’s the deadline?

The deadline also varies by school, though most are before or on April 1. The common application is due by April 1.

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.