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Advantages to attending super-difficult high school?

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Replies to: Advantages to attending super-difficult high school?

  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 34785 replies1076 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    A disadvantage some might say of attending a high school that has higher standards than many is that students can be pretty burned out by graduation.
    Both my Ds took a gap year and a large portion of their friends did as well.

    Some students even say that their high school was more difficult in some ways than college.
    They both were accepted to all the colleges they applied. Colleges have descriptions of the school and rigor of courses, oldest's college not only wanted essays but they wanted a graded research paper.
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  • MarianMarian 13200 replies83 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    In my experience (based mostly on one of my kids, who attended a selective-entry IB program that produced 35 NMFs out of 100 kids in the program in her year):

    Pros of specialized, higher intensity high school program:

    1. You learn more in high school than you otherwise would have.

    2. You are better prepared for college.

    3. You are with peers and therefore may be socially more comfortable.

    4. You are with peers and therefore may be less likely to drift into undesirable behavior in high school.

    5. You are likely to graduate with a whole lot of AP, IB, or other credits that some colleges accept, which might give you greater independence in designing your college program.

    6. College will be really easy by comparison, and you will have much more time to sleep in college than you ever had in high school, which you will greatly appreciate. (My kid went to Cornell, which is not known for having a relaxed academic atmosphere, and thought it was easier than high school.)

    Cons of same:

    1. Your GPA and class rank will almost certainly be lower than they would have been at your neighborhood high school, and your recommendations may be less enthusiastic because you don't shine in comparison to your peers.

    2. As a result of #1, plus the direct competition with other students in your school, your prospects for admission to highly selective colleges may be poorer. Not horribly poorer, but maybe one level lower than you had hoped.

    3. Because of the intensity of the academic program, you may be somewhat burned out by graduation time.

    4. Because of the intensity of the academic program, you may not be able to devote as much time or effort to ECs, which could hamper your college admissions prospects.
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  • moonchildmoonchild 3266 replies30 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Just last night at dinner my young adult Dd, who tutors high school students, remarked how much she has come to appreciate her rigorous private high school. The difference in the depth of her education in the humanities, in particular, is striking. She is stunned by the paltry knowledge her students have of history and literature as well as their poor grasp of the English language.
    I remember how my Dd's US History teacher would return her essays with a detailed evaluation of her arguments, sometimes paragraph by paragraph. Her senior year English teacher required several eight-page essays each semester.
    One of my Dd's public school students told her she hadn't been required to write a whole essay the entire year. :(

    I don't think there is any question that a rigorous high school education is a gift that lasts a lifetime. Whether it helps in college admissions is debatable, but I think overall, it's helpful. The better educated student will write better essays and perform better on admission tests. I also agree that many colleges are aware of the rigor of most of the high schools and they take that into account when looking at class rank and GPAs.
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  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 12870 replies241 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Here in Central Ohio, colleges KNOW. Based on Naviance and anecdotes from friends in neighboring districts, colleges seek out kids from our HS. The average GPA/scores published by colleges are almost always higher than the average of accepted students from kids at our HS, often big differences like 3.8 vs 3.1, or a couple hundred test points.

    That may be because our HS offers more rigorous courses and many of our kids take them, but I think it is also because the "basic" classes are simply harder. My S had the experience of meeting kids who hardly wrote in HS at all, whereas he had many lengthy and challenging research and analytical papers throughout HS.

    Coming from a challenging HS can help even if rank/GPA are lower.
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  • laticheverlatichever 1431 replies91 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Re SAT: At a recent MIT info session, the admissions director said, "If we wanted, we could fill our freshman class with perfect SATs, but that's not just what we're looking for." Yeah, SATs of 2385.

    In terms of strategizing for college admittance--quality of education aside--the top students at my kids inner city high school regularly get admitted to Ivys and the top lacs. In fact, the local Ivy almost has a quota of admititing two or three
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  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 34785 replies1076 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    One of my Dd's public school students told her she hadn't been required to write a whole essay the entire year.

    It is appalling how uneven (& low) some expectations are.
    My youngest attended a K-12 school until high school & I remember hearing one teacher allowed a student to turn in a poster instead of a paper.
    ( I am unsure if perhaps this was part of the students accommodations)
    On the other hand, when she began at the school in 3rd grade, I was struck by the length of the papers that her teacher assigned.

    Since this is a college board, I do want to point out that there are many colleges where they can continue to be challenged, and the list goes deeper than the typical list on CC where a student might be applying to UPenn, Williams, Duke, Rice, Brown, UMich, Carleton & Pomona. And MIT- what the hey!
    ;)
    ( although that list seems long to me, it might seem short to the class of 2014.)
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  • MarianMarian 13200 replies83 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Coming from a challenging HS can help even if rank/GPA are lower.

    Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

    I was at a Columbia University admissions session with one of my kids when a student raised his hand and asked whether there was a limit on how many students Columbia would accept from a single high school. The answer was "No, there's no limit." And then the admissions officer added, "Well, of course, we're not going to take 100 people from Stuyvesant."

    It turned out that the student asking the question was from Stuyvesant.

    My daughter's high school program was much smaller than Stuyvesant, but there was a reason why anyone who could afford to apply ED did so and why anyone who was a legacy at a reasonably attractive college took advantage of that status. The kids felt that they were at a disadvantage because they were competing with each other, and those who had a way to counteract that disadvantage used it.
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  • HuntHunt 26787 replies131 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I agree with Marian on the pros and cons (and my kids attended the same IB program hers did). For my kids, the pros outweighed the cons, and they still feel that way. For us, transportation to the magnet was not a big problem--it would have been a different story if it had been a lot further away.
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  • MarianMarian 13200 replies83 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    For my kids, the pros outweighed the cons, and they still feel that way.

    My kid, too.
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  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 34785 replies1076 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    We did carefully consider this with youngest.( oldest attended same school from 6th-12th-although we did still tour high schools)

    D2 was attending a close knit k-12 school, middle school was team taught in 7th &8th grade. Electives were open to 7-12 graders. She participated in a marine biology field trip to Hawaii in 8th grade that was part of a high school course.
    If she had stayed there, she would have been in the top 10%, but they didn't have the facilities of the comprehensive high school she wanted to attend & overall the comprehensive school had stronger teachers.
    However, as it was the magnet for the top 2% of kids in the district, I think she was maybe in the top 28th %.
    But she was still accepted to all the school she applied to.
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  • StantonMomStantonMom 134 replies4 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    My son graduated in 2012 from top HS in the country located in FL. IB program; still had time to be VP of class junior and senior year. Went to state flagship for Film school(FSU) and between AP and IB tests, went in with 45 credit hours(the max they take). Did business minor freshman year and stated that much easier than high school - DEFINITELY WORTH GOING TO THE MORE COMPETTIVE HIGH SCHOOL.
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  • StacJipStacJip 629 replies17 threadsRegistered User Member
    tranquilmind-
    A few thoughts that might help you sort out what you want for your child.
    1: The purpose of High School is not simply to do what you need to in order to get admitted to a top University. High school are years where your child goes from being a little kid to being a young adult ready to move on to the next phase in life. There is a lot going on during those years and parents should not forget that these are also years when patterns of sleep, self-care and mental coping skills are formed and solidified.

    2: College is not an end point but a beginning. So ideally you want your child to arrive at college with the following skills:
    a: A passion and thirst for knowledge
    b: The skills about how to learn and how to retain knowledge
    c: Good social skills
    d: Good self-care and mental health skills
    e: The ability to advocate for oneself when there is a need
    f: Comfort taking risks and chances with learning.
    g: Knowledge of their learning style: For example are they a more hands on leaner or more of a book learner.

    Nobody knows your child or where your child or the various schooling options your child has. But the best place for your child is where he/she is going to be happiest, find the most friends and be comfortable taking chances and exploring who they are so they can figure out what they want out of a college or university experience.

    Some kids might crave an environment where the teachers and fellow students are super smart while others may find that the stress and demands of such a place are resulting in an increase in anxiety and a lack of self-confidence.

    Parents need to remember this is some sort of race. Being more advanced in HS does not necessarily lead to one being more advanced in life.

    As I often say to teens, "Your job is to graduate from HS happy healthy, comfortable in your skin and knowing what you want out of the next four years of your life."
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  • slushy9slushy9 147 replies53 threads- Junior Member
    Well I attend a school that people think is "best in the area". TBH the only advantage is that the students are a bit more mature. There are still lazy kids there and some who got in by luck. It's not worth it imo... it's just high school. class size is around 105 and i'm one of the two NMSF/NMF this year probably. I'd much prefer being homeschooled since I can learn at my pace and not wake up so early T_T Most teachers at my school don't really take their work seriously since the students learn themselves. Once in a while, I have an excellent teacher.
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  • goodbetterbestgoodbetterbest 66 replies6 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Based on my kid's experience, as a parent, you need to make sure it is a right fit. My daughter's school accept 200 sophomore students, after 2 years of study, only about 150 graduated. If your GPA is less than 3.0, they ask you to leave. So 25% of the students are weeded out. If your child is not strong in math & science, he/she should not apply. It will mess up their chance to get into a good college.
    Once your child is in, don't take courses that is too hard, start easy to protect GPA. It is an early college program for high schoolers.
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  • kmcmom13kmcmom13 3904 replies11 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    OP, back in 2009 when my son was preparing to apply to colleges, I was concerned in some ways that the rigorous gifted-talented school he attended would in fact hurt his chances based on the fact that despite the school's stellar reputation and the tendency for its students to be recruited, his GPA (in part, due to a LD -- he is both gifted and challenged but because it was a gifted school, did not ask for LD compensation) would hold him back if he were not in the top 10% of the class.

    This turned out not to be true at all -- in fact, he and every other accepted student to what is now his alma mater received scholarships to incentivise their attendance at a nationally ranked state flagship, for example, while still others received generous packages to a number of rigorous top colleges across the country.

    An ad com from UMich basically explained to me that a solid B to B+ from his school was in fact roughly equivalent to a straight A average at the typically grade-inflated comprehensive schools in the state.

    That said, many rigorous college programs do in fact evaluate of much a student pushed themselves in a stimulating environment, so if he had been in the bottom half of his class, his results might have been substantially different.
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  • TranquilMindTranquilMind 1084 replies18 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Based on my kid's experience, as a parent, you need to make sure it is a right fit. My daughter's school accept 200 sophomore students, after 2 years of study, only about 150 graduated. If your GPA is less than 3.0, they ask you to leave. So 25% of the students are weeded out. If your child is not strong in math & science, he/she should not apply. It will mess up their chance to get into a good college.
    Once your child is in, don't take courses that is too hard, start easy to protect GPA. It is an early college program for high schoolers.

    Same here, goodbetterbest. My daughter's school takes in maybe 150. 1/3 or so drop out or go back to the home school for all kinds of reasons, from academic, to simply not being ready for dorm life yet. I'm not sure if there is a GPA cut off, because she was never in any academic trouble, but simply didn't maintain the straight A's in a couple of classes, getting B's instead. She did not have the option not to take easier versions of these classes (high school, instead of college level)- our state requires those credits to graduate from high school. Had she taken them at first school, it would have been a breeze.
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  • TranquilMindTranquilMind 1084 replies18 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Excellent advice, StacJip, and I wholeheartedly agree.
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  • hazelorbhazelorb 3192 replies48 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I was much better prepared for college (UVA - state school). All of the kids who were valedictorians from nowheresville, VA got straight C's in college because they could not compete with the kids who had gotten Bs in high school and actually learned a great deal more. I ended up graduating from high school with maybe 1/4 Bs I would say, and even a final C, and yet I graduated Phi Beta Kappa at UVA. My public yet rigorous high school had 1/3 of each class in NHS, etc. I was very happy with both educations, however I would have needed to attend an even more rigorous private school to be able to compete with the top math students at college (I was a math major). I did get mostly A's in my math classes at UVA, however the students who were clearly destined for graduate school were so far beyond me and I knew it.
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  • TranquilMindTranquilMind 1084 replies18 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    kmcmom13:An ad com from UMich basically explained to me that a solid B to B+ from his school was in fact roughly equivalent to a straight A average at the typically grade-inflated comprehensive schools in the state.

    That said, many rigorous college programs do in fact evaluate of much a student pushed themselves in a stimulating environment, so if he had been in the bottom half of his class, his results might have been substantially different.

    That first statement is very encouraging. I think it is probably true for this school. I saw those textbooks. Yikes! I couldn't have done that at 16, I suspect.

    Hopefully, she can get back into the straight A groove next year, but there is no mom there telling her to turn off the computer, quit playing around and study! Hopefully, she will be more serious about that next year (another reason for not advancing a child ahead one or more years, I think).
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  • Data10Data10 2948 replies8 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    All of the kids who were valedictorians from nowheresville, VA got straight C's in college... I would have needed to attend an even more rigorous private school to be able to compete with the top math students at college (I was a math major).
    Attending a rigorous HS no doubt helps to develop a background and study skills that are important in college. However, a rigorous HS is by no means a requirement to be successful in college and beyond. You mentioned math. In my basic HS with few challenging courses, there were 3 students who were at least 2 years ahead in math. I'd consider them to be the top 3 math students from my class. All were quite successful in college, such that they were accepted to a grad school that was at least as selective as their undergrad. 2 of the 3 went to HYPSM for grad school, and the third went to the lowest cost top 5 school in his field. Based on the few data points I have, the students in my class who I felt were talented and hard workers did well in college. The straight A students who were hard workers without as much natural talent often struggled. I'd expect this group to have similar trouble at a rigorous HS. However, they still generally achieved their career goals, including graduating from med/law/grad school (often not the one they had hoped for) and had far better than straight C averages at selective undergrad schools. In short, I'd expect most of the students to have similar career results, regardless of which HS they attended.
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