By Zach Patberg
According to admissions data from the city Department of Education, the Fresh Meadows school's Javits Institute of Law is the most selective of the city's 600 high school programs, turning away roughly 4,360 applicants this fall for the 30 open seats. But the school's officials point more to simple overcrowding than any strict admission criteria for why the program selects a mere one out every 146 applicants.”It would be virtually impossible to squeeze another human being through the door,” program head Joyce Prenner said, with the school operating at 200 percent of capacity.Indeed, the law program prides itself on accepting a certain percentage of students from all reading levels — an eligibility leniency that is partly why so many students apply.”It's very egalitarian, this program,” said Principal Jeffrey Scherr.The school's other two specialized programs, the University Scholars and the Math and Science Institute, base admissions on academic prowess. Another reason Prenner cited for the citywide overflowing of applicant pools is a new admissions system in which eight-graders can apply to 12 high school programs instead of only five, which was the rule until two years ago.Some aspects of the Francis Lewis program that attract students, according Prenner, include eight law courses taught by actual lawyers; a mentorship program at a top Manhattan law firm, Proskauer Rose; a distinguished diploma coupled by a letter that is sent to colleges upon graduation; and the moot court, mock trial and debate teams, each of which are recognized city and statewide.”(The program) allows the kids to be exposed to all law-related activities, not just lawyers,” Prenner said.Once accepted about 95 percent graduate, said Prenner, who has headed the social studies department for 19 years. “Kids who have a hook in school, whether it's in athletics or academics or something social, tend to do better than those who don't,” she said. Other highly selective programs in Queens, according the DOE data, include Law & humanities at Forest Hills HS and Science/Math at Benjamin Cardozo HS in Bayside.Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by 718-229-0300. Ext. 155.