The Ivy Coach Daily

September 15, 2019

Your High School Matters from an Admissions Standpoint

High School Reputation, High School Rigor, High School Relationship with Colleges
A private college counselor penned a strong editorial in The Chicago Tribune, but the piece doesn’t emphasize one point as much as it should: a high school’s reputation and its relationship with various colleges matter big time in highly selective college admissions.

Does where a student goes to high school matter when it comes to his or her chances of admission to America’s most highly selective colleges? The answer, of course, is a resounding yes. But it never ceases to amaze us how many students and parents are under the false impression that as long as a student takes the most rigorous level coursework offered at a given high school and excels in that curriculum, however limited it may be, that their high school’s reputation and relationship with colleges won’t matter. That simply isn’t the case.

Not All High Schools Are Created Equal

A high school’s reputation does matter to America’s elite colleges. The rigor of a high school’s curriculum does matter. If a high school only offers 2 AP courses and isn’t on the IB curriculum, well, that’s a good indication the school isn’t all that competitive. If only 60% of a high school’s graduates attend four-year schools, well, that’s another great indicator the school isn’t all that competitive. If the mean SAT score of a high school’s graduates hovers around 1,000, yes, you’ve got another solid indicator right there. If a high school offers students a list of all the schools students have been accepted to over the last five years and the list includes only three Ivy League schools, that’s yet another indication the school isn’t all that competitive (also keep in mind that this list could mask the fact that one student earned admission to all three of those Ivies).

In an editorial for The Chicago Tribune, a private college counselor, Gerald Bradshaw, writes in a column entitled “Excelling at a top school — whether public or private — will aid in Ivy League application,” “There was a day when attendance at a top prep school was nearly a prerequisite for admission to an Ivy League college. Today, 63 percent of Harvard freshman admissions are from public high schools.” Mr. Bradshaw is not wrong. Our nation’s elite colleges don’t only admit students from the likes of Andover and Exeter these days (although these schools still boast great relationships with our nation’s top colleges). Our nation’s elite colleges admit lots of students from our nation’s public schools each and every year.

America’s Elite College Don’t Only Pull Students from Feeder Schools

Mr. Bradshaw later writes, “Today, it is becoming less true that where an applicant attended high school will have an impact on their chances of being admitted to an Ivy or another top college such as Stanford University and the University of Chicago.” Again, he’s not wrong. Compared to the 1950s, when our nation’s elite schools were largely filled with students from feeder schools like the Andovers and Exeters of the world, our nation’s elite colleges today admit students from high schools all across America and around the world. Of course, they still do love their Andover and Exeter students, too…they just don’t fill their entire classes with them.

The High School’s Reputation Matters Whether Public or Private

But all high schools are not created equal, as we fear some may surmise from Mr. Bradshaw’s otherwise strong editorial. In fact, we want to underscore the importance of a line Mr. Bradshaw writes towards the end of his column: “If your high school has…a curriculum that prepares you for rigorous academic achievement in college, it will make a huge difference in your admission chances.” Yes, oh yes it will. That if matters big time. And, remember, just because a high school doesn’t offer certain coursework doesn’t mean students can’t go above and beyond what limited coursework their high school may offer. Yes, oh yes they can.

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