Effect of HS's academic reputation on college acceptance

<p>My S attends a large public high school that we've just learned is ranked in the top 3% of high schools in the country (I assume the ranking is among similar schools, but I don't know). I've spoken to an alum of the school who tells me that grads have a better shot at getting into college (all else being equal) because that HS is known for its rigor.</p>

<p>So my question is: say there are 2 identical students, same GPA, same test scores, exact same curriculum, same ECs, same everything, but one went to a HS with a not-so-good academic reputation. Generally speaking, does the kid from the better HS stand a better chance of getting admitted?</p>

<p>I'm not sure. I bet the kid at the "lesser" school has a much-higher ranking than the kid with the same GPA at the better school. That could be a plus for going to the lesser school.</p>

<p>The goodness of the HS is a circumstance that has been handed the student, not a reflection of his or her achievement. Colleges understand this. It is a "report card" on the parents' socioeconomic status, for the most part.</p>

<p>Keep in mind that colleges often have regional admissions counselors who are familiar with the schools in their regions. Rankings bother me. For example, Maryland came out as having the best schools on some study, but it was based on money spent per pupil and AP tests taken. This confirms Pizzagirls' comment about socioeconomic status.</p>

<p>Ranked by whom? There are some pretty dumb ranking systems out there. I don't think colleges pay any attention to those high school ranking systems, but they do know some high schools better than others. At some high schools they will go deeper into the class to accept students. So for example, at our high school kids in the top 5% do very well in college admissions, but at exam magnets like Stuveyssant in NYC, or Thomas Jefferson in Virginia or Scarsdale High School in NY, or the various well known East Coast prep schools they may take the top 20 or 30 or 40%. (Just inventing numbers here.) Of course there may be other factors at play here - playing prep school sports, having legacy parents, higher incomes meaning that tutors and college counseling is better etc.</p>

<p>I'm testing this theory right now for D2 and I can tell you there is no such thing as if everything else is equal. A kid from a competitive high school might be the top 20% while the same kid could be top 1-2% at another non-competitive high school. While kids from competitive high school might not do well as far as college admission is concerned, they tend to do well in college. From my observation, kids from non-competitive high school who graduated with sky-high GPA(4.6+ GPA)are flunking in college. There is usually a trade-off.</p>

<p>The trade-off is in the preparation for college. Kids coming from a more rigorous school system have had the benefit of being in a competitive pool. A tippy top student at a weaker school may not have had the competitive benefits, however, a good student will "catch up" quickly. A mediocre one maybe not. Even 30 years ago I was amazed by the depth and breadth of what some of my fellow freshman from really good private and prep schools had studied in high school compared to what I had taken and studied. I was at the very top of a very small public...not a bad school, but small. They tracked kids and adjusted the curriculum to the abilities of the gang I tracked with. I did fine, but had many insecure moments that first year.</p>

<p>From casual observations rigor of HS does give the student a slight edge when it comes to certain schools (probably not at larger schools that do it straight by the book, though - many state schools have straight up GPA+SAT formula, I believe the UCs being one chunk of them).</p>

<p>One of my friends got into a top private LAC despite having what many on CC would consider "dismal" grades aka 3.1 in HS. I think the strong SAT scores, combined with her writing skills, and the fact that our school was known to be rigorous, made adcoms consider her GPA in that context. While she may have been a "B" student at our school, they must have assumed she would have been an A student someplace else - turns out they were right, since she's currently got a 3.8 in college as a junior. </p>

<p>So while I think it's definitely something an adcom would consider, it seems unlikely that it would come down to directly comparing two people and saying, "This one gets in, this one doesn't" and having them magically have the exact same essays, recs, ECs, passions, etc :p. Therefore though /allowances/ may be given to lower GPAs at top schools, I don't think anyone would ever be /hurt/ by the fact that they attended someplace less rigorous. If they're a top student then they'll get top grades at the less rigorous school...which can only be a good thing.</p>

<p>I don't think kids who are equally bright would actually have the same GPA. Let's say one of those kids went to a large public HS, while the other went to a small private. The "cream off the top" of the large public might be deeper than that of the small private. But that still depends on the school. But what does it mean if you're in the top 10% of the large school vs small? Let's say 5/650 vs 5/30. It's still too broad to say one is better. </p>

<p>USN&WR uses # of AP tests given, or ratio or something completely meaningless. What if, instead, you look at the % of kids going to college. Or average SAT score. I'm of the belief that these fluctuate too much, and schools try to manipulate the data, it becomes invalid. I also think it depends on the college. Small colleges might feel kids coming from a small HS would be better suited, and large university would be better for the kids in a larger HS.</p>

<p>All things "being equal", I think it depends on a lot of factors, including how well known the HS and the relationship between HS and college to say it makes any difference.</p>

<p>
[quote]
"I'm testing this theory right now for D2 and I can tell you there is no such thing as if everything else is equal. A kid from a competitive high school might be the top 20% while the same kid could be top 1-2% at another non-competitive high school. While kids from competitive high school might not do well as far as college admission is concerned, they tend to do well in college. From my observation, kids from non-competitive high school who graduated with sky-high GPA(4.6+ GPA)are flunking in college. There is usually a trade-off."

[/quote]
</p>

<p>This could not be farther from the truth. I wasn't even val at my no-name high school (I was number 10) and I am still getting better grades than half the students in all my classes according to the averages, even the kids who were top of their class at prep schools. I think those who go to top schools like prep schools have a false conception that they recieve a better education. My school was ranked like top 4% in the country according to US news and I am still doing fine.</p>

<p>It really depends on the individual and not the school.</p>

<p>
[quote]
My school was ranked like top 4% in the country according to US news and I am still doing fine.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Well, top 4% versus bottom 25% is a big difference.
Science/Engineering major versus non-science/engineering major can explain the difference in GPA.</p>

<p>OP: I think there are pros and cons both ways. Lot of students at DD high school thinks, they would have a better shot at HMSPY, had they gone to less competitive school because they could have stood out more.
To some extent it is true as can be seen from the fact that Princeton accepted 17 out of a class of 170 i.e. ~10%. How many more could it accept?</p>

<p>On the other hand if a student from this school have gone to a less competitive high school might not have the opportunities to do what they have done there by lowering the chance to get into HMSPY to begin with.</p>

<p>You can pretty much look at standardized tests and GPA and make some sort of generalization. Of course there are always the folks "that don't test well" but if you have a really high GPA and an average for college bound standardized test there is a disconnect especially if you use the ACT which supposedly measures closer what you've learned. To bring it home to the OP, in my opinion if you are at the top of your class and you've got standardized test scores to back it up, then I doubt the colleges would care if your HS was medicore or one of the best.</p>

<p>Two candidates, all things being equal...</p>

<p>Here's my take--if the two candidates are at the very high scoring/GPA of the spectrum, I would guess that there probably won't be much difference. However, if the candidates are further down the ranks, the candidate coming from the better school will do better in admissions.</p>

<p>I think colleges will go deeper in the pool of students for schools that they know are very rigorous. </p>

<p>And sometimes your school gets a reputation from a college. For example, I think Stanford views our local high school as a great pipeline to get high achieving URMs from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. And we've sent them some great kids over the years. Unfortunately, our track record for kids who didn't fit that profile has been dismal.</p>

<p>I strongly agree with Ellemenope. My kids graduated from different high schools: some went to a public school with an inhouse magnet and some to a strong area ps. The top kids in the regional magnet did very well but the kids who were good students but not in the magnet did worse than kids elsewhere. My kids in the strong ps had an easier time of it.</p>

<p>I attended a decent, no name regular ps a million years ago. Despite a gpa, courseload, scores, URM status and extracurriculars that would get me admitted to some LACs now, I wasn't accepted back then. I recently looked at their Naviance data and realized very few kids (the top few) got anywhere other than state schools. In my kids' top public, there are URM outside the top 10% who go on to top LACs. Oh, and to be honest, we did a TON more writing and harder lit but I suspect my high school was off the radar for most admissions officer. (My kids live in a wealthier area than where I grew up so there are many more kids here who apply to the top colleges.)</p>

<p>I have it on very good authority that, for my HS at least (one of the top 50 in the country per various rankings, public), "____ students only compete with other ____ students." I have this second hand through a teacher I'm still close with that he got it from an admissions counselor from an Ivy (I know which one, just not posting which). This may not be true, but looking at year after year of data, my alma mater has produced nearly the same exact numbers of admits for each of the ivies, which seems to point the finger at the best High schools having quotas which are filled in competition only amongst the applicants from that HS. </p>

<p>As for your more direct question: Of course the better reputation bearing school is a deciding boost in that scenario- why wouldn't and ad-com take a kid who was exactly the same as another but went to a better HS. For one thing, if his HS was better, then his GPA means more (in theory).</p>

<p>
[quote]

Quote:
"I'm testing this theory right now for D2 and I can tell you there is no such thing as if everything else is equal. A kid from a competitive high school might be the top 20% while the same kid could be top 1-2% at another non-competitive high school. While kids from competitive high school might not do well as far as college admission is concerned, they tend to do well in college. From my observation, kids from non-competitive high school who graduated with sky-high GPA(4.6+ GPA)are flunking in college. There is usually a trade-off."

[/quote]
</p>

<p>
[quote]
This could not be farther from the truth. I wasn't even val at my no-name high school (I was number 10) and I am still getting better grades than half the students in all my classes according to the averages, even the kids who were top of their class at prep schools. I think those who go to top schools like prep schools have a false conception that they recieve a better education. My school was ranked like top 4% in the country according to US news and I am still doing fine.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>It is not true in all instances, but there certainly are some students who are better prepared for college than others. The person who posted the original comment was talking about a public academic magnet program, rather than a prep school, though. Magnets tend to be notably more rigorous than the "regular" programs in the same school system.</p>

<p>College grades, of course, have a lot to do with the individual. It takes self-discipline and hard work to earn a good GPA, as well as good preparation. A lot of students, even those from the best high schools, don't put in the effort for one reason or another.</p>

<p>It's clear from comparing Naviance graphs at various high schools that students with similar stats have vastly different outcomes at some colleges depending on the school. Whether this reflects the quality of the high school, the location of the high school, or some other intangible factor is more difficult to ascertain.</p>

<p>For some reason, one of the HYP's seems to love our local HS, while another one never accepts any one from the school.</p>

<p>Colleges have their own data bases for their adcom, tracking all academic success in their colleges by prior years matriculated students from certain high schools.</p>