Effect of HS's academic reputation on college acceptance

<p>Marian, The problem with the magnet isn't what happens to the magnet kids-- it's what happens to the kids outside the magnet program in the same high school. Their ranking is often much lower because the magnet kids averages are weighted and they take the top stops. Plus, our local magnet does things that I find wrong. For example, if a magnet kid who has taken a romance language wants to begin a new romance language in junior/ senior year, they let the student skip to level 4 or so so that his report card doesn't show any lower-level courses in the last 2 years. That wouldn't be bad if the student could keep up-- but my kid was stuck in 'fake' level 4 and 5 classes with half magnet kids and her Spanish actually deteriorated. (The curriculum was NOT Spanish 4 or 5.) My kid in the regular ps had a much more rigorous experience in Spanish 4 and 5.</p>

<p>My kids went both to a private school deservedly famous for its academics and to a large urban public magnet, also very well known. Looking closely at the college admissions results for both schools over a number of years -- as I did -- and adjusting roughly for things like very different applications patterns at the schools, there is no question in my mind that the top private school did better than the very good public school. But the difference was marginal, not absolute. The very top kids at both schools were completely comparable and had comparable admissions success. The bottom kids at the private school (who were really comparable to kids around the 75th percentile at the public school) did very well, considering, but a lot of that was wealth and willingness to consider options the public school kids didn't, like going to far-off LACs. It was with the students just below the top layer that the private school really did better. Some -- hardly all! -- of these kids would get into their reachiest schools, while that basically never happened to the equivalent public school kids, and in general they all went to really good colleges. Many of them would get recruited as athletes to top colleges. </p>

<p>My sense was, that if a college was going to take a risk, it would take the risk on a kid from the private school, who was certain to be well-prepared and sophisticated. For example, URMs at the private school down to the middle of the class would get accepted at HYPS; at the public school, a URM would have to be right at the top of the class to have a shot at HYPS, and even then sometimes not.</p>

<p>
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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).

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<p>Yes, the 3.9 GPA at the "better" school means more in theory than the 3.9 GPA at the "worse" school. However, when we're talking about public schools, it's SO linked to the socioeconomics of the parents that the schools would wind up taking all the 3.9's from New Trier, Lake Forest, Highland Park, Lower Merion, Greenwich, New Canaan, Short Hills, Edina [fill in your favorite upscale suburban HS of a major city] over all the 3.9's from [fill in your favorite middle class or working class areas]. And the schools don't want a class of all upscale suburban kids.</p>

<p>JHS, My experience is the same as yours. Around here, private school kids are also more likely to be recruited for athletics, something only the very outstanding public school applicants seem to be able to do.</p>

<p>From my experience at my own top private college prep school and from observing patterns reported to me by my friends at other similar schools, schools known to be academically demanding do, on the whole, MUCH better than averagely ranked schools. </p>

<p>My theory on this is because harder schools have a tremendously high ceiling for achievement which lesser schools lack. At some public schools, you can be a 4.0 student, never miss a single assignment, take a boatload of APs, and still get rejected from top colleges. At my school, if you get a 4.0 (which, to my knowledge, no one ever has), you WILL get into a top college, NO question. Probably Harvard. </p>

<p>Looking at my school's naviance report, The average GPA/SAT (/1600) combo for HYP is 3.74/1530, at Columbia/Brown/Penn/etc it's more like 3.61/1510. Because colleges have been dealing with my school for a while, they know that any kid getting a 3.6 here could potentially be getting a 4.0 at an easier school, but because of how demanding the work is, they are much better prepared to handle college workloads and tend to do better.</p>

<p>I'm not trying to be elitist, it is very very possible to get into top colleges from average to mediocre schools, but if you are looking for a sure bet, I really think top ranked private schools (if you can afford them) cannot be beat. At schools like this, simply graduating in the top 50% of the class is all you need to do. We sent ~40% of the class to the ivy league last year, and so far for ED we have gone like 7 for 10 at Columbia, 4 for 5 at Stanford etc. The stats don't lie.</p>

<p>
[quote]
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).

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</p>

<p>Here's one reason why not--if the two kids had "exactly the same" SATs or other standardized scores, and one had all the advantages of the "good" school but the other did not, then the one from the not-so-good school got that high score with much less boost from outside. I think it says something about him/her, and I think colleges can figure it out (it seemed to help my own kids, anyway.)</p>

<p>Jackpot, a <em>good</em> ps (not necessarily a magnet) is a whole different story than an average-ranked ps. The average gpa/sat for HYP from my kids' good ps is 3.89/1500 for Colombia/Brown/Penn it's 3.78/1425. The top students all went to top schools if they wanted to. (Quite a few gave them up for full rides elsewhere.) It is below the top level where the difference really is. Kids outside the top quartile, for example, probably do much better in the private school-- but remember that the bottom of the ps class probably wouldn't have even been admitted to the elite private school. So the selection process was made much earlier (and may, in fact, be more connected with $ than you realize). By the way, our rather sizeable graduating class wouldn't even have 10 ED applicants to Columbia because of $.</p>

<p>I think it can work both ways
My high school is average to below average. We send maybe half the class to 4 year schools, and most of them are going to state-affliated schools. Maybe 5 or 6 kids get to go to "good" schools
My high school is also really poor. There aren't alot of opportunities. So, if your record somehow compares to kids who come from more affluent areas, then I think you get a boost in admissions. You've had to work a great deal harder to get the same achievements. We don't have SAT prep or alot of APs.
However, like I said, we send very few kids to good schools, so the chances you are one of the kids who "gets out" isn't very good</p>

<p>Yes - there definitely will be a difference based on what high school a student attends. It may not be as simple as comparing rankings though because you have to look at the ranking systems and many ranking systems are really screwy. Here is an excerpt from a post I made on another thread a few months ago which is pretty much on point:</p>

<p>I will compare stats from the independent school I am at and the well regarded public school a mile down the road. Note that this public school advertises that it is ranked in the top 2% of public schools nationwide and has been ranked by newsweek on their best public high school list the last 5 years- so based on that, we are comparing a top independent and top public school. Additionally, neither school ranks students</p>

<p>As I previously noted, both are located in the same affluent community and over 50% of our students come from this school district. So the socio-economic factors for both student groups should be very similiar. Looking at last year's college stats, the independent school graduated 77 students and over 50% attended a Most Selective (per Barrons) college. The Public School graduated 160 students and about 10% attended a Most Selective college. Now, lets equalize the public numbers by assuming that we should look only at an equivalent number of students. Furthermore, lets only look at the top 77 students at Public School (ie the top half of their class). When you compare just this group of students, only 21% attended a Most Selective college as compared to over 50% at Independent school. this disparity can not be simply disregarded as the stats don't compare similiar groups (they do), or attributed to the wealth of the families (remember, same affluent community).</p>

<p>So delving deeper, what causes this difference?</p>

<p>Looking at the data available in this comparison, these factors jump out at me:</p>

<ol>
<li><p>College Guidance - this is probably the biggest difference between the independent and public school impacting college acceptances. As others have mentioned, the quality of the college counseling is usually much more intimate in a private school. College counselers work with fewer number of students (in our case about 37 each) They have a nice budget for travel and attend every major professional meeting such as NACAC as well as making visits to 10-20 colleges every summer. They know the admissions officers from the top LACs, the Ivies, etc. and they know all their students. They can more easliy advocate for their students which makes a big difference.</p></li>
<li><p>Academic Rigor - There are indeed differences in curriculum and the rigor of the courseload and many top colleges know a student coming from a top private school has had a rigorous workload and will be well equipped to handle college. They may or may not have that same feeling about students coming from a Public (unless they have had others who have been successful in recent history). I believe in my comparison above, this plays out in the average SAT and SAT range at these 2 schools (the independent had a higher average SAT by 250 points)</p></li>
</ol>

<p>Finally, I would also agree with JHS that the private school students tended to cast their nets much wider (and geographically farther) than the public school students. So they are willing to look further for top schools than their Public brethren who primarily stay more local. What causes this is subject to debate but I would be willing to bet a large part goes back to college counseling and the culture of the school. It seems natural to assume that counselors who are more involved, attend NACAC and visit colleges can provide students much better options than those who are dealing with many more students and who do not get out beyond their region</p>

<p>I agree with you, PG, that
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And the schools don't want a class of all upscale suburban kids.

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<p>However, I think they don't mind filling their classes with "MOST" of rich kids. Of course, I only have limited data points. </p>

<p>In DD's Stanford class from the region, DD is the only public school student while the rest are all from expensive privates. </p>

<p>Since the HS is in a very well to do area, we are seeing a very good early results this year. To a college, there is just a high % of chance any kids from this HS will be paying full freight. So far we knew of </p>

<p>Harvard 1 (likely letter)
Yale 1
Stanford 1
MIT 1
Chicago 2
Cornell 1
Duke 1
bunch of other T20 ED/EA s</p>

<p>out of a 180 graduates class.</p>

<p>
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We sent ~40% of the class to the ivy league last year

[/quote]

jackpot, is this one of the NYC day schools, if you can't tell the name of the school?</p>

<p>My kiddo went to a large, unranked public HS and was in top 1% of the class with SAT's in the 2200's. He applied to 4 highly ranked colleges spanning a huge geographical range, and was waitlisted at 3 and was admitted to the 4th, which he is attending, loves and has excellent grades at so far) It is hard to tell what will sway an adcom. I have wondered if some of those WL's would have been admissions if he came from a school with a track record and the vision of getting students into top colleges. None of that matters though, he is where he wants to be, and I am so thankful for that.</p>

<p>This whole issue of attending a top ranked school has a lot of thorny and contradictory problems. </p>

<p>Pros: You can associate with mostly top notch students. Let's face it, a teacher can only teach to the level of the weakest links or at least to the average student. If almost everyone is top notch, the level of instruction improves. In addition, there usually is a greater amount of high level courses such as AP, college course access, research etc.</p>

<p>The cons can vary by state and by school; however, almost every college has a strong commitment to diversity, This means that they don't usually take too many from one school. Thus, getting into a top college from a top high school generally requires even higher GPAs and SATs then normally, I have seen this at my daughter's previous high school , which was ranked in the top 50. Kids getting admitted into IVYs, especially Brown University, had to have higher SATs than that found in many other schools of lower rank. This was confirmed by examining the Naviance SAT scores for admitted students and comparing them with lessor ranked schools.</p>

<p>I should note that many top universities do seem to take a higher percentage of kids from certain private schools.It wouldn't be unusual for a school like Chote , among other top private schools, to send as much as 50% or more of their kids to ivy or semi- ivy types of schools. I believe this has more to do with the fact that these kids probably won't need any financial aid since private schools tend to attract a wealthier type of family. This should be contrasted to top notch public ivys, such as Thomas Jefferson, or Stuyvesant who might send 10- 20% of their kids into the ivys</p>

<p>Moreover, many schools , such as University of Texas, are obsessed with class ranking. If you are attending a school with a large number of high achievers, it will be tougher to make the top 10% than attending a much lessor ranked school. Although University of Texas is renown for this emphasis, I can assure you that it isn't limited to Texas.</p>

<p>Bottom line: I frankly wouldn't worry about it. Top schools produce better prepared students. In fact, all of my daughter's friends from her high school have achieved very decent GPAs in college ( 3.5+).</p>

<p>I think that it would depend. For example, at the local IB school in my town, students there take 15+ APs, and IBs etc. At my school, there are about 13 offered APs, no IB classes, and I am taking the hardest classes possible.
If you were talking about two kids who come from two different schools, but one of them took AP Calc BC when it wasn't offered and did an independent study, and the other one took AP Calc BC as a normal class with a normal teacher etc., the former student would likely be more favorable.</p>

<p>I think its all about what you make of your high school education. Given the two examples, I sincerely doubt that both high school students at two completely different schools had the same opportunities (especially in terms of class options), even if they did take the same courses.</p>

<p>Yeah, Thomas Jefferson in northern virginia has a distinct advantage in UVA admissions (2 out of 4 students who attend TJ get admitted to UVA -- see Cavalier</a> Daily and The</a> Cavalier Daily | Thomas Jefferson High School grads find familiar faces at University little change between 99 and 06...). I don't know numbers for other schools.</p>

<p>When I applied to colleges, my high school was in the top 5 according the USNews. We got no one into MIT. This year we dropped to top 20 and we got four kids in for early decision alone, with plenty of others kids into Penn, Cornell, and Columbia. TRUST me - ranking DOES NOT and WILL NEVER matter because it is based on a completely trivial system (number of APs taken? AP scores? Really?!).</p>

<p>Going to a challenging school is for your own self and your own interests. If you truly feel that you would not obtain the same challenge by going to a typical school, than going to a challenging school would be in your interests. It will not drastically affect your chances of admission to a top school. </p>

<p>For me going to a challenging school was due to the fact that the local school had very very low standards and preparation. MANY students ended up going to community colleges because they could either not afford a regular university or wanted to purely slack off. Some didn't even go to any college. So going to a challenging high school gave me advantages in many aspects (though getting caught up to speed took MANY years).</p>

<p>There are thousands of HS in the US do you really think there is any difference between the 5th and 20th ranked HS. I was once shown the performance data for graduates of a HS that was ranked in the top 5%. The graduates from the high ranked HS had GPAs way above the campus average (top 20 university). The adcoms used the data base to inform their admission decisions. They were more likely to dig deep into the pool of applicants from a rigorous HS but would only take the top 2 or 3 students from a weaker HS.</p>

<p>"Generally speaking, does the kid from the better HS stand a better chance of getting admitted? "</p>

<p>I strongly believe that one of the reasons for D. getting accepted to very selective program that had only 10 spots for incoming freshmen was her HS. I do not know any rank, it is very tiny private school, her senior class had 33 kids. Now, being junior in college, she can see why. She feels that her college prep. was much better compared to other students in her college classes.</p>

<p>I'm sure some colleges have their favorite high schools. BUT - I would not despair if you go to Podunk Area HS. I have seen many kids from our local public high school (in the middle of Amish Country, not high powered in the least) get full rides to Harvard, Princeton, Penn, Vassar... you name it. Scholarship rides, not income-based need.</p>

<p>It's a part of diversity that people don't think about. A big fish in a little pond is worth something, diversity-speaking. If Harvard never had a student from Podunk HS, and the Podunk kid was up against all the top kids in Fairfax County VA, Podunk would stand a better chance, because everyone and their mother apply from FC.</p>

<p>^Harvard, Princeton, and Penn do not give merit scholarships.</p>