How do colleges evaluate the school profile?

<p>My kids attend an urban high school with a city-wide draw. Students enter through a lottery. Although the school offers a rigorous curriculum, not everyone is willing or able to take full advantage of it. Approximately 30% of upperclassmen are enrolled in AP classes and about 23% are taking IB. (“Enrolled” can range from one AP or IB class total to all APs or the full IB Diploma Programme.)</p>

<p>I recently saw the school profile for the first time and felt it did not do the school justice. The average ACT score is slightly below the state’s average ACT score, neither of which is strong. The average SAT is also nothing to get excited about. Although I was already aware of these scores, seeing them in the context of the school profile concerned me. </p>

<p>How will this look to colleges? Will a student who has challenged him/herself and has achieved top grades and test scores truly stand out, or will colleges consider the student to be the best of a bad lot or a big fish in a small pond?</p>

<p>My kids went to a school much like that -- large, city-wide academic magnet with a huge range of students. Six years out of high school, my daughter has classmates in PhD programs at Harvard, Penn, Chicago, MIT, but the median SAT for the school is under 1100 (on a 1600 scale). The school sends 30-40 kids/year to highly selective colleges (out of a graduating class that is usually around 500), some more to not-quite-as-selective colleges, and then everyone else goes to second- or third-tier publics or community college. Colleges seem perfectly willing to treat the top students as they would treat top students at any strong school, but there is a steep dropoff in selective college chances for anyone who is not in the top 10% of the class or who hasn't challenged him- or herself in terms of curriculum.</p>

<p>JHS -- Good to hear, thanks! Our school is quite a bit smaller than yours was (enrollment is around 600 for grades 9-12) but each year a handful of kids do get accepted into top schools. Having never seen the school profile before, I had no idea what colleges were actually seeing.</p>

<p>Chances are that adcoms know something about the school. Though they can't know all, they are usually on top of names and reps. Score averages are not as important as the rigor available and how your kids took advantage of this and performed. LoRs from mix schools like this often make the difference in this student quite clear. So, you are probably fine. </p>

<p>Sometimes, for some hs, yes, the kid is only the best of a bad lot- that's why it's important to make the most of the app itself- show leadership, maturity, commitment, all those good things that make the kids seem a winner, not just better than others.</p>

<p>Our school is not an academic magnet, but it's a large urban/suburban school with a wide variety of students from kids with parents on welfare to ones who are millionaires. It's also amazingly diverse (when my oldest attended 40% White, 40% African American, 15% Hispanic and 5% other - I believe the Hispanic numbers have risen.) Our SAT scores are just a shade above the state averages. The top students in the class do very well. I know the year my oldest graduated the 25th ranked student went to Brown. My youngest whose rank was below that (but still top 6%) was accepted at Chicago, Tufts and Vassar.</p>

<p>I think a top student at a school that has a middling average can do very well, especially if the school ranks. Some of the Ivies (such as Harvard who attend our college night every year) are very familiar with the school and know our top students will do very well if they attend. Other schools (such as Stanford) have so far only accepted legacies and/or athletic recruits.</p>

<p>I have a question, does anyone know how if affects admissions if you are a top student (with the stats, EC's, scores, etc.) applying to HYPS, BUT no one from your high school has ever even applied to any of these schools, let alone attended? Does this work against, or for, the applicant or doesn't it matter at all? Thanks! :)</p>

<p>I'm also a parent of students who attended a diverse, urban high school with more than half of the students on free and reduced lunch. This school was not a magnet. If you just looked at its stats, you would not realize that there was a critical mass of students that wanted to learn. The school provided AP and upper level classes for these students.</p>

<p>My daughter's interest was more in scholarship opportunities than HYPS. She applied to good but not tippy top universities and received generous scholarships from several. She continues to be a top student at the school she attends, even while carrying 18 credits hours in an engineering curriculum. Also, she finds she was just as prepared for college as students coming from top magnet programs and competitive suburban high schools.</p>

<p>If anything, the teachers and counselors an D's high school went out of their way to help students applying to top schools. I think it was a part of their job that they really enjoyed.</p>

<p>"How will this look to colleges? Will a student who has challenged him/herself and has achieved top grades and test scores truly stand out, or will colleges consider the student to be the best of a bad lot or a big fish in a small pond?"</p>

<p>Depends on the college. 1,500 of the nation's 1,700 or so four-year colleges won't care in the least. Your state colleges will only care that they have top grades and test scores. OOS publics will care about that, and whether you have money at lot more than they do about the school. A shockingly small number will care at all about your school, or give it more than 30 seconds in their first three-minute evaluation. Some of these will rank where she/he stands in relation to other applicants from the same school.</p>

<p>And unless the so-called "top college" regularly receives applicants from the same school whom they accept and who decide to attend, they gather as much "prestige" from rejecting the applicant as in accepting him/her. With umpteen applicants for every place, they are looking for every possible reason to reject an applicant rather than accept one.</p>

<p>In the global scheme of things, you shouldn't be surprised how little any of this matters.</p>

<p>In my opinion it is important to check the profile for accuracy. At my kids' school they listed AP classes which would have been appropriate for my kids to take, except they hadn't been taught in years. This was especially true in language classes.</p>

<p>^^^ It did look fairly accurate, with the exception that one National Merit Commended student was left off. Our AP offerings have varied over the years and the profile reflected the current courses.</p>