Interactive database: How to play Pinellas’ school choice lottery

The Pinellas County school lottery can be a scary proposition, with applications outnumbering available spots by the thousands. The Tampa Bay Times developed a tool based on school district data that removes some of the guesswork and helps families make the most of their bid for a seat.

Each student can list five ranked choices for a magnet program, fundamental school or academy. Last year, about a third of applicants had priority preferences, which give students a leg up if they have a parent who’s on staff at that school, a sibling already in the program, or they’re currently enrolled in a program that’s a feeder for the one to which they’re applying.

The rest are students with no priority who compete through the lottery, with sometimes hundreds of families vying for just a handful of seats.

The Times has crunched the numbers to show how much priority preferences and first choices affect your chances of getting into each program. Use this tool to explore all the programs available for a certain grade, or just focus on the options you’ve been considering. Here’s our full school search guide. The 2016-17 lottery opened Jan. 6 and closes Jan. 15. Keep in mind that some programs have admission requirements. Good luck.

Notes on the data:

This data comes from two district data sources, taken at different points in the year. Because some invitations happen after the initial application period, numbers of applicants and invitations may not always not be equal. Additionally, some students apply to programs they’re ineligible for and don’t enter the lottery, so chances may be higher in some cases. Data on first-choice applications and invitations was only available for the 2015-16 school year. Information on proximity priority preference was intentionally omitted, as that preference is based on how many other applicants live closer to a school, rather than a specific distance.