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Advantages to attending super-difficult high school?

TranquilMindTranquilMind Registered User Posts: 1,083 Senior Member
edited August 2013 in Parents Forum
My daughter applied and was accepted at a very competitive high school after two years at a different one. You have to apply and only about 20% are admitted. My daughter received her first B's ever at this school (but gee...they made her take an AP science class for which she had no prerequisite class at all because that is all they offered and econ at the college itself, since she had not yet taken high school econ at her home school).

Anyway...I'm now wondering if there is any advantage at all in going to one of these competitive schools for gifted kids (20% admittance rate), except for the absolute right to say that yes, you voluntarily undertook a very rigorous high school experience. Had she stayed at the home school, nothing below an A would have ever happened and she would have been at the very top, but would not have learned as much, I think.

Anyone else's son or daughter go to a school like this? I was a little concerned when she mentioned that one of the top students, who got straight A's and a 2385 on his SAT was rejected from all his top schools, and that she had heard that others had difficulty as well. :O Maybe the college guidance person isn't going to bat for them? Any thoughts on that or on these kind of schools, if you know anyone who has gone?
Post edited by TranquilMind on
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Replies to: Advantages to attending super-difficult high school?

  • colorado_momcolorado_mom Registered User Posts: 8,574 Senior Member
    One advantage of rigorous hs academics is that it helps a student decide if that is something they'd like for college. And it better prepares them for rigorous college workload. Some of my college classmates had sailed through their easy hs and had a rude awakening freshman year when among like peers.

    Per the B in econ, there are lots of students that take college econ w/o hs econ. It sounds like the issue in your D's case is that her classmates did have the hs econ class. That's unfortunate.... but one B is not a showstopper. Good luck!
  • xraymancsxraymancs Forum Champion Graduate School Posts: 4,442 Forum Champion
    When the acceptance rate at the "top" schools is under 10%, lots of very good students get rejected. One of the Issues that I see when looking at applicants to IIT who are at these "consortium" STEM schools

    National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science and Technology - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    is that because they often live at the school, they are removed from the social environment of their home school, where they would have many opportunities to take leadership positions. Since universities often look at these kinds of things to distinguish top applicants, there might be a disadvantage for some. Being a technical university, IIT loves getting students from these schools because they are usually extremely well prepared for a rigorous curriculum. We take into account the fact that grades may suffer when a student moves to such a school. Of course our acceptance rate is not under 10%...
  • Erin's DadErin's Dad Super Moderator Posts: 35,427 Super Moderator
    but would not have learned as much
    This is the reason I would send my children to a more competitive program.
  • whenhenwhenhen Registered User Posts: 5,638 Senior Member
    Many Emory students went to one of those specialized STEM schools. From what I've inferred they were nowhere close to the top of their high school class, but once enrolled, tended to take extremely challenging upper division science classes at a much higher rate than students from middle of the road high schools.

    Also there are some top private high schools where getting a 4.0 UW is extremely difficult, but their graduates tend to do quite when it comes to selective college admissions.
  • TranquilMindTranquilMind Registered User Posts: 1,083 Senior Member
    One advantage of rigorous hs academics is that it helps a student decide if that is something they'd like for college. And it better prepares them for rigorous college workload. Some of my college classmates had sailed through their easy hs and had a rude awakening freshman year when among like peers.

    Per the B in econ, there are lots of students that take college econ w/o hs econ. It sounds like the issue in your D's case is that her classmates did have the hs econ class. That's unfortunate.... but one B is not a showstopper. Good luck!

    Yes, that's true that the grads from this high school say that college is a breeze, and far easier than high school. That part will be good, I guess, if she continues working and doesn't get distracted with fun things to do.

    She got a couple of B's (both involving using math forumlas) and is definitely never going to be a math-oriented kid, and will definitely not take any more than required for her college major.

    Thanks!
  • TranquilMindTranquilMind Registered User Posts: 1,083 Senior Member
    because they often live at the school, they are removed from the social environment of their home school, where they would have many opportunities to take leadership positions. Since universities often look at these kinds of things to distinguish top applicants, there might be a disadvantage for some. Being a technical university, IIT loves getting students from these schools because they are usually extremely well prepared for a rigorous curriculum. We take into account the fact that grades may suffer when a student moves to such a school. Of course our acceptance rate is not under 10%...

    Thanks for the link. I will check that out!

    Yes, you can get isolated, living at the school. But there are lots of clubs and events, and my daughter started a faculty-sponsored club as well, and will be head of that and co-head of another language club next year, so I doubt she would have done more at the home school. She tried a few things when she was there for which she really wasn't suited, she soon found out (cheerleading, choir...)

    They are all "nerds" in this school in a sense and there is less judgment and hiding of braininess or your weird likes, I think, which has probably been good.

    Thanks for your thoughts about possible acceptance of these students. I'm just wondering how much she needs to explain about how difficult this school is compared to the old one.
  • TranquilMindTranquilMind Registered User Posts: 1,083 Senior Member
    Many Emory students went to one of those specialized STEM schools. From what I've inferred they were nowhere close to the top of their high school class, but once enrolled, tended to take extremely challenging upper division science classes at a much higher rate than students from middle of the road high schools.

    This is good to hear. She's still somewhat near the top....not sure, since they don't rank, but she was one of about 15 who were called up for NMS achievement of above the state cut-off at an assembly. Though we never heard another thing about that...(?)
  • TranquilMindTranquilMind Registered User Posts: 1,083 Senior Member
    Erin's Dad: This is the reason I would send my children to a more competitive program.

    We figured that should be the most important thing and that the chips would fall where they may. I hope it all works out. We still have next year!
  • purpleacornpurpleacorn Registered User Posts: 1,559 Senior Member
    I went to an early college residential program that was probably more low-key than the STEM ones that were being discussed here (mine was liberal arts focused). I had excellent stats and got into some of my 'top' schools (and am going to Duke in the fall!). I wouldn't say that the program put me at a disadvantage, and I certainly grew a lot more as a young adult and as a person at this school. (The acceptances I gained at the early-college program (and the rejections as well) were pretty par for course for what my peers received at both the larger STEM school and my large public home HS. Some of my friends at the gifted STEM school expected acceptances and didn't get them, however, so that is important-- simply being at one of these schools doesn't guarentee anything.)

    My program was extremely small, which meant that there was not that intensive sense of HS programming. As a result, I was able to take advantage more of being on the college campus, which included research opportunities in the humanities, working on campus, and connections with a bunch of professors on campus. My friends went to another program in the same state that was larger and more STEM-focused. At that school, I know it was more difficult to get involved in the college community as a whole, but because they were bigger, they did create opportunities for themselves.

    And I have friends who stayed at the high school who did well for themselves as well and became a leader in the school. So I wouldn't worry about the merits of one type of program over another-- instead, encourage your child to make the most out of the school and to explore. And I can't stress this enough-- if s/he's able to on the larger campus (I'm not sure if this is a possibility), get involved with the larger campus. I learned so much that way.
  • TranquilMindTranquilMind Registered User Posts: 1,083 Senior Member
    Purpleacorn, thanks for your insights.

    She is on the campus and does take classes in her particular area of strength at the college. Her partner for a project last semester was 21 (she is 16!).

    But yes, I agree, that kids in this situation should get involved on the campus.
  • purpleacornpurpleacorn Registered User Posts: 1,559 Senior Member
    -nod- I was able to take a couple of upper-level math and English classes where I was the only student in the program (and where most of the students didn't know I was a part of the program). Those were some of my peers in the community. I loved my classmates, but it was nice to sometimes get 'away.' If your D has developed a particular relationship with a professor in those areas of interest, perhaps a letter of rec there would be nice, or asking that professor for a research opportunity. I didn't start research until my senior year, but it was with a professor I had taken a class with spring semester of my junior year (and that opportunity leveraged itself nicely into freelance work).
  • NC MomNC Mom Registered User Posts: 813 Member
    DS went to one of these two year live-in programs here in NC. He definitely got his share of Bs there. I can't really say how it impacted his college acceptances, although he was rejected from both Columbia and Cornell, the only two Ivies to which he applied. He was one of about 36 NMF in his class of 225. He ended up at his dream school, USC. I know our state flagship only takes about half of DS's graduating class, all of which would have been accepted had they stayed at their home school. DS just finished his sophomore year and has had an easy time so far due to the rigor at his HS. For him it was the right decision as our home HS would have provided no challenge for him.
  • MD MomMD Mom Registered User Posts: 6,728 Senior Member
    Admissions counselors are usually regional and are familiar with the different schools and their rigor, so I would not vie terribly concerned about the grades.

    IMO and in my limited experience, some of the highest achieving kids are a bit full of themselves and may not come across the way they think they do in essays and interviews. Coupled with the low admissions rates, lots of bright kids do not get accepted to their first-choice schools.
  • colorado_momcolorado_mom Registered User Posts: 8,574 Senior Member
    I once heard a prof say it was obvious which kids had been through IB... they seemed very well prepared for college.
  • learninginproglearninginprog Registered User Posts: 1,104 Senior Member
    2385 on the SAT's? Perhaps that is why that top kid never got into any schools. There is no such SAT score.

    Maybe it was a typo on OP's part. :cool:
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