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How do you know if your child would be competitive at top schools?

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Replies to: How do you know if your child would be competitive at top schools?

  • MyrtleDMyrtleD Registered User Posts: 21 New Member
    Yes, he had US History as a freshman, AP world history as a sophomore, then debated whether or not to take AP US history as a Junior. In order to fit in music and science research, he's had to give up other classes. He thought if he took civics and Spanish on line in the summer that would make up for the deficiencies, and further accelerate in science, but I can see that that isn't going to look good. I think he'll have to bag the computer science to add either AP US history or a language... by the time you take English, history, math, science, and music and a language there is truly no time for electives, and he is determined to take the honors science research class in order to do independent research with a professor at the nearby university, as that is his love. Languages are his big weakness... We'd forgotten that colleges want 4 years of social studies as well... Yikes.
  • suzy100suzy100 Registered User Posts: 3,790 Senior Member
    Is band one of the classes he takes during the day or is it after school? He could swap out music (an elective) for social studies.
  • MyrtleDMyrtleD Registered User Posts: 21 New Member
    Band is during the day. Giving that up is not possible. He is first trumpet in band and section leader in the Philharmonic orchestra, and lead trumpet in jazz band, which is after school - all of these positions are nearly unheard of for a sophomore in a school with a strong music program. He's considering minoring in music as well as majoring in science. I'm wondering if the AP psych class is considered social studies?
  • MyrtleDMyrtleD Registered User Posts: 21 New Member
    Thanks. He's following his passions and doing well at them. He still has time to make changes, but I do hate to see him make changes based on second guessing what colleges want rather than based on what he wants and loves.
  • jonrijonri Registered User Posts: 6,782 Senior Member
    A lot of colleges consider 3 years of social science enough. It's just from what I see, he only has 2.5 unless the "civics" course is considered a full year course.

    I'm going to disagree a bit with @JHS . I think it's fine if your S wants to "do his own thing," IF he knows the possible consequences. If he is aware of the high school course work recommendations for the colleges of interest to him and THEN decides to do band and science research, then let him. What you don't want to have happen is the S does his "own thing" and then gets told senior year that (1) his high school won't certify him as having the most rigorous course work possible and/or (2) a college admissions officer tells him that his app is weak because of his course selection.

    If he knows the risk and decides to run it--fine.



  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 16,681 Senior Member
    I'm pushing back, @jonri . What do you mean "IF he knows the possible consequences"?

    The most sophisticated 15-year-old alive probably knows that systematically taking the "wrong" courses may make you a less competitive applicant for Harvard. And she may even vaguely have a sense of what "less competitive applicant" means at a college where maybe only a few hundred kids in the world are clear admits on academic grounds. But she likely has a completely imprecise and misleading idea of the difference between Harvard and wherever else may accept her if she takes some curricular risks, nor will she understand how, if she's really a competitive applicant for Harvard, not taking the same lockstep AP courses as everyone else probably helps rather than hurts her. And she absolutely has no clue -- because it's impossible for anyone to have a clue -- what getting into Harvard or not will really mean for her life. And the OP's kid is a boy, which almost by definition means that there's quite some distance between him and the most sophisticated 15-year-old alive.

    And guess what? He's overwhelmingly not likely to get into Harvard, whether or not he takes that extra science course or the foreign language AP.

    So exactly what "possible consequences" is a 9th grader supposed to know?

    I do not, of course, mean to say that everyone should let their 9th graders do whatever pops into their not-very-mature minds. All I am saying is no one should be making decisions based on what will help them get into the most hyperselective colleges. They should be making decisions based on what will give them the education they want this year.
  • jonrijonri Registered User Posts: 6,782 Senior Member
    edited April 21
    @JHS The OP never mentioned Harvard. Nor did I. So, don't throw up a straw man and argue it. OP did mention some specific schools, including your kids' alma mater. UChicago's suggested minimums include three years of social studies and it looks like this kid may not meet that. And, my impression is that it isn't just the "tippy top" schools that are going to look askance at a transcript with 2 years of FL and 2.5 of social studies, one semester of which was taken on line during the summer. (That same transcript is going to show that 4 of his 6 courses junior year were math & science courses.)In fact, I think some colleges a tier or two down are just as likely, if not more likely, to throw an application that fails to meet high school curriculum requirements into the reject pile.

    Indeed, there was a thread not too long ago from a parent with a kid who wanted to be a theatre tech major at a SUNY who was shell shocked when she found out her kid was ineligible because he hadn't taken the minimum number of high school math courses the major required. Yep, he made "decisions based on what " would "give" him "the education" he "wanted" this year and found out that was a mistake.

    So, I am NOT suggesting that a kid should make decisions based on "what will help them get into the most hyperselective colleges." I am suggesting that a kid ought to take into account that taking no social studies or foreign language courses his junior and senior years of high school may make it extremely unlikely he can go to some colleges. And some schools are going to question taking 3 out of 6 courses junior year in the sciences.

    He could, BTW, probably get away with it at Harvey Mudd. https://www.hmc.edu/admission/apply/first-year-students/eligibilty/

    So, I think the young man should know that following his plan may limit his options.

  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 16,681 Senior Member
    OK, you're right. No one should fail to take the minimum courses required for admission to the applicable in-state publics unless they are very, very certain what they want and very, very certain they can achieve it.
  • parsocparsoc Registered User Posts: 42 Junior Member
    The best colleges give lists of recommended high school prep classes. These are recommended but not required. Having been involved with admissions and higher education for 20 years, I counseled my son that the colleges would not focus so much on what wasn't taken, rather they'd focus on what was taken instead. So, for example, if you didn't take more advanced Spanish but instead used the time for another intensive and perhaps less common scholarly pursuit, it would not reflect badly. But if you didn't take the more advanced Spanish and didn't replace it with something equally or more rigorous, it would send a bad signal.

    And definitely, definitely counsel your son to choose activities because he loves them or might love them, not simply because they further the goal of getting into a more competitive college.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 61,487 Senior Member
    In post 10, I put links for the HS required courses for the colleges the OP DID mention. I then mentioned the FL recommendations and requirements... but all the others are there too...on those links.
  • TQfromtheUTQfromtheU Registered User Posts: 698 Member
    edited April 21
    OP, consider taking 1-2 classes during HS summer school if your DS is going to be lacking required classes. My DD likes the ability to focus on one class during the summer. She is taking Physics this summer in order to have room in her schedule for cheer and theater next year.
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 29,087 Senior Member
    Right now your kid is not competitive for many top schools which will be looking for 4 years of English, at least 2 years of Social Studies, 4 years of Math, at least three years of Science, at least 3 years of Foreign Language and at least one art/music/drama type course.

    The number of APs he needs to take to be competitive will be judged in the context of his high school. Our high school offered 22 AP courses, but I don't think anyone took more than 8 of them. They also offered at least one post-AP math course. Posters here say colleges prefer the APs that are more traditional (Bio, Physics C, Chemistry, Calc BC, English Lit or Lang, any of the languages over stuff like Psych, Env. Sciece, Human Geography.) I've never actually hear an admissions officer say it. They do say, you don't need to take every AP offered. It's not a matter of whoever takes the most APs wins.

    What's more important for the colleges you mentioned is evidence of intellectual vitality, a willingness to go beyond the curriculum. This can come out in teacher's recommendation, in activities (like science research), in outside recommendations, in essays. My younger son, who is a real history buff, wrote an optional essay for one college that was a fictional history of the United States if the Battle of Lexington had been lost. He did a lot of work finding bits of Ben Franklin's diary, asking for a German headline he could include etc.

    He's got two choices. He can beef up his coursework, or he can look at slightly less selective colleges. There are lots of college that will be thrilled to have him just as he is.
  • wis75wis75 Registered User Posts: 11,946 Senior Member
    He is good with the gpa and test score. Plenty of AP's offered by your HS, btw. To be competitive for colleges he should take more foreign language. For example, Wisconsin's UW flagship successful applicants most often have 4 years of a foreign language. This and researching your own flagship plus other schools will show him why that Spanish may be a better idea than some AP classes. Even a perfect gpa is of no use if one does not have what competitive students for a school have as credentials. Great to self study and take AP exams. Also fine to not have all AP's offered to fit in the foreign language. Son did his 4th year of French instead of junior year AP lang. arts (did honors class instead) which meant he met all college requirements for foreign language.

    Your son needs to consider your flagship and other top tier schools since there are far too many top students, even with his credentials, than room for them at the most elite colleges/universities. Now is the time to lay out the Spanish class reasoning. A hoop he should jump through to make options available.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 61,487 Senior Member
    Maybe he should take some of those electives like CS, and the like in the summer...and take what colleges expect and require during the school year.
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