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Advantages to attending super-difficult high school?

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

  • cfrink1cfrink1 Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
    I go to a very rigorous, competitive high school and although my grades aren't what they would be had I gone to a regular high school, I feel like I never would have been interested or prepared for the hard academic colleges that I plan on applying to.
  • HuntHunt Registered User Posts: 26,917 Senior Member
    However, once your academic record falls below one or two B's (and the rest A's), then it varies highly and usually the super-elite schools won't take you. However, good schools may still take you.
    This was not my observation at my kids' magnet. While grades were important, the total package was more important--and I think going to the magnet helped many of the kids develop the total package.
  • collegealum314collegealum314 Registered User Posts: 6,768 Senior Member
    This was not my observation at my kids' magnet. While grades were important, the total package was more important--and I think going to the magnet helped many of the kids develop the total package.

    At my own magnet, it depended on the college in terms of whether they were looking at the whole package. For HYP, it was pretty much impossible with more than a "B" or two (and they took very few people in general). Stanford, however, took a boatload of people whose academic records looked much worse.
  • 2prepMom2prepMom Registered User Posts: 1,140 Senior Member
    As highly selective STEM college admissions enroll more and more students who have all 8 STEM APs, dual college enrollment while in high school and stratospheric test scores (see some of the "admitted" threads on CC), it becomes more difficult to compete for ADMISSIONS if you are a good hardworking bright kid, attending a average or "good" public school. It is more a commentary on the state of public American secondary education than on our bright kids.

    Our local "excellent" public school, for example, has a 55% minority drop out rate and has not gotten a student accepted to MIT/Caltech in recent living memory. And very bright science oriented kids go there, and feel hard-working while taking their one senior AP science class.

    ONCE ADMITTED, the difference in preparation is stark, and freshman science classes at highly selective colleges are filled with intel finalists, kids with AP everything and 3 years of molecular genetics research prior to setting foot in college. College freshmen aiming for majors in STEM fields who do not have strong preparation wash out quickly.

    I think a case can be made that the standard STEM high school curriculum offered to our best students in America (algebra, geometry, trig, pre-calculus and maybe a little calculus, intro bio, chem, physics and one advanced AP class), is utterly inadequate for research university preparation.
  • Data10Data10 Registered User Posts: 2,480 Senior Member
    As highly selective STEM college admissions enroll more and more students who have all 8 STEM APs, dual college enrollment while in high school and stratospheric test scores (see some of the "admitted" threads on CC), it becomes more difficult to compete for ADMISSIONS if you are a good hardworking bright kid, attending a average or "good" public school. It is more a commentary on the state of public American secondary education than on our bright kids.

    Our local "excellent" public school, for example, has a 55% minority drop out rate and has not gotten a student accepted to MIT/Caltech in recent living memory. And very bright science oriented kids go there, and eel hard-working while taking their one senior AP science class.

    ONCE ADMITTED, the difference in preparation is stark, and freshman science classes at highly selective colleges are filled with intel finalists, kids with AP everything and 3 years of molecular genetics research prior to setting foot in college. College freshmen aiming for majors in STEM fields who do not have strong preparation wash out quickly.
    Selective colleges generally have different expectations for students who go to school in an environment with fewer opportunities. For example, the Stanford admissions website states, students should have "taken full advantage of the opportunities available to you in high school." Harvard states "having taken the most rigorous secondary school curriculum available to them." Both emphasize available opportunities, rather than listing specific details about advanced classes or a specific number of AP classes. Students who go to a HS with only 1 AP class aren't expected to take as many AP or advanced classes as a student who goes to TJ. Similarly a top SAT score would probably look more impressive coming from a student at a basic public school that almost never has national merit finalists than from a student TJ where a good portion of the class is national merit scholars.

    I have a relative who was accepted to Stanford without having taken a single AP or honors course. She went to an extremely small HS that did not offer multiple-level courses, such as honors and non-honors. I was accepted to Stanford, MIT and some ivies with stats that would look extremely weak compared to the selective college threads we see on CC, such as 3.4/3.5 HS GPA and 500 verbal SAT. I believe one the main reasons I stood out was because of my basic HS background. For example, when I ran out of advanced classes at my basic HS, I took classes at nearby colleges, such as SUNY and RPI. I came in with nearly a year of college transfer credit, all at 4.0 GPA. This was likely more college courses than any graduate in the history of my HS (at the time). Comments with details like that from a GC along with seeing that I made the effort to go beyond what was available to me at my HS would mean far more than a student taking similar classes at TJ, which were available in the usual TJ class schedule. While at SUNY, RPI, and Stanford, I did not feel unprepared in STEM classes (excluding an honors-type physics class that was intended for physics majors who had "mastered" AP Physics, a class that wasn't available in my HS). Instead I achieved high enough grades in STEM classes to be accepted to coterm in two engineering grad programs at Stanford.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,133 Senior Member
    2prepMom wrote:
    I think a case can be made that the standard STEM high school curriculum offered to our best students in America (algebra, geometry, trig, pre-calculus and maybe a little calculus, intro bio, chem, physics and one advanced AP class), is utterly inadequate for research university preparation.

    In theory, that is more than adequate -- at almost all schools (Caltech and Harvey Mudd being exceptions), students are expected to be ready for calculus, and have had normal high school level courses in the sciences; calculus or other AP courses are not required. However, it is the quality of courses in many high schools that is lacking. This includes AP courses, given the large number of 1 and 2 scores on many AP tests.
  • rhandcorhandco Registered User Posts: 4,290 Senior Member
    Better to go to a more competitive HS. The trick is that more people will be applying to very competitive schools, and one of the diversity measures is not taking too many kids from one high school.

    If your daughter has very good extracurriculars, that will help immensely. I know that those at my HS who did not get into their colleges of choice had extracurriculars that were very narrow and only a few - equestrian (state level) and youth religious organization (the national president, with thousands of members).

    Getting into a great college is a crapshoot, but anyone can try to transfer if they are doing very well.
  • mhidrogo289mhidrogo289 Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
    Great connections, great experience, great classes.
  • drexterdrexter Registered User Posts: 736 Member
    I don't know but at my high school the admission rate was 7% when I applied. It had some great people, but so competitive classes. But had a great experience. I don't know what will happen to me admission, but I'm happy with the experience.
  • MDJDMomMDJDMom Registered User Posts: 14 New Member
    Oh my gosh, I just have to weigh in. I have to strongly advise YES, get the most rigorous high school education you can, but keep these things in mind:
    1) If applying to college outside your region, they won't know or care that your B means more than a local public school A. If you're going to get B's, your scholarships are going to someone who got As for showing up.
    2) If applying to regional colleges, you will be given fair credit for your effort.
    3) If applying to Ivy's you better just get As.
    4) Regardless, you will do better in college with better preparation.
    5) If your family has money and your financial aid is dependent on scholarships, do what you need to do to get great grades or you'll be paying sticker price.
    6) If your family doesn't have money, do what you need to do to get good grades to minimize your debt.
    Two kids applied throughout the country to competitive LACs:
    1) homeschooled, 3.86, ACT 21 - 10 scholarship offers between $40,000 and $80,000
    2) rigorous prep school and numerous APs, 3.4, ACT 27 - Nuthin' - Paying in full
    It's just not fair. Having a hard time getting over it.
  • qialahqialah Registered User Posts: 1,899 Senior Member
    I think you send them to where they will be happy and challenged and not worry about GPA and college admissions. It is not the HS that gets the kid into a college it is the kid. If the kid is engaged and happy at the elite HS then great. If the kid feels beaten down by the pressure, I'd take my kid out. HS is not really about getting into college, because smart kids don't have to go to Harvard to realize their potential. It's about developing skills and interests for whatever you chose to do in the future.
  • colorado_momcolorado_mom Registered User Posts: 8,652 Senior Member
    I think you send them to where they will be happy and challenged and not worry about GPA and college admissions.

    Amen to that. It will be hard to know which path yields the more appropriate college admissions. So strive for making hs challenging, but not overwhelming.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,133 Senior Member
    qialah wrote:
    HS is not really about getting into college, because smart kids don't have to go to Harvard to realize their potential.

    Smart kids from poor families need high grades to get into the colleges with the best financial aid or get large merit scholarships at other colleges.

    Of course, the high school's courses must be of sufficient quality that A or B* students in college prep courses will not have to take remedial courses in college, and students in AP courses will generally get AP scores matching their course grades (A students get 5 scores, B students get 4 scores, etc.).

    *Should really be that A, B, and C grades in college prep courses indicate solid passing of the material so that remedial work is not needed, but that may be an unrealistically high expectation in these days of grade inflation.
  • TranquilMindTranquilMind Registered User Posts: 1,102 Senior Member
    NewstudentMom- my daughter has taken a few college classes on the campus as well as the high school ones and says the same thing: 1) the college classes are EASIER, and 2) 9 (high school, but college level) classes is too many (and that's what she took her first semester!).
  • acenonekingacenoneking Registered User Posts: 64 Junior Member
    It depends on the child and where they hope to go...from a college admissions standpoint, some schools do limit the number of students from a certain high school or region each year (they want diversity.) Also, what is this school's relationship to colleges? Does the school have a good rep. with admissions dept? (Call a few and ask - what do you think of this high school? Have they even heard of it?) If you could visit admissions off peak, even better. What do you think of the guidance dept? Do they have many students admitted to colleges like the ones your child may be interested in? i.e. more state admissions, than private, more small schools than large, top tier, etc. IMHO, if student is willing to learn more and do more - they can't go wrong! Some children want a tough academic challenge. and yes, some leadership/initiative positions do matter but with homeschooling these can be achieved through scouting, community sports, volunteering, small business enterprises, etc. Learn more about specific colleges. Start daughter building a resume, contacts, etc.
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