Serious Question about changing High School in Senior Year

Hi, I’m a rising senior who wants to go to either UC Berkeley and Harvey Mudd.

As you know, these two schools are very competitive and I need to have an edge in my application. And here’s my concern; I’ll try to get to the point ASAP; please respond anyone, I will appreciate your thoughtful comments as this is very serious issue for me.

I would really, really appreciate it if you read all the paragraphs (because they give you the complete picture), but if you hate reading or don’t really have time to, YOU CAN GO TO THE VERY BOTTOM PARAGRAPH FOR SHORT SUMMARY.

I go to a small Catholic high school. My GPA is around 4.3 (very close to 4.0 unweighted) and am ranked number 2 or 3 out of my class of 27. Yup, you heard it, 27. Problem is that even though I may be a salutatorian, that will only make me top 7%; if I become 3rd, then I become top 11%. While being a salutatorian is good, being top 7% is bad considering that I am hoping to attend good colleges listed above. I scored 2270 on my SAT I, and I do not think that I can take it again (due to my tight schedules and other reasons), and not even sure if I want to. The scores for each section are 710 CR, 760 M, 800W (80 MC, 11essay). I plan to take Math II, Physics, and Chemistry for SAT II, and hoping and expecting those 3 scores to be all 750+, even possibly all 800 with some luck and more practice. I played tennis for 5 years, and was once ranked top 9th in Kansas State. I am an international student who came to US in 7th grade. I was class representative in Student Council in my junior year, and will be again in my senior year if I plan to go to the same school (in other words I got elected for my senior year). My teachers like me overall, and I believe that they will write for me a pretty good recommendations if I ask them (8/10, if I were to predict ? ). I did not participate in any EC other than these.

My question is, should I transfer to another school that offer about 4-5 AP classes that I can and hope and willing to take in my senior year? The school is public, is a really bad school compared to other schools (average ACT there is 21 or 22, I believe), but it will give me the chance to take the 4-5 AP classes in my senior year and will make me at least top 5%. One friend of mine who transferred to the public school told me that I can be a valedictorian if I transfer. Well, you never know what’ll happen, but I am pretty confident that I will be top 5% at least. If I work really hard, I think I can be top 1-2%; I have really good work ethic. The major drawback is that (1) I won’t be able to take any AP exams (for the obvious reason being that AP exams are offered on May of each year, which is after college admission process has ended), and (2) my teacher recommendations wouldn’t be as good as it hoped be; you have to “build up” your good relationship with your teachers for some time before they like you (please correct me if I’m wrong at this; I’m just a bit nervous for changing teachers after having pretty much the same teachers for 3 years).

Another major reason that I wanted to transfer is that my high school’s course offerings/curiculum are SO rigid. Although we do have honors and regular classes, these two divisions are meaningless since pretty much anyone who cares about GPA can get into honors. Also, many of the classes are ones you have to take, regardless of how good your academic abilities are. For example, freshmen have to take regular english, regular geometry, regular biology, regular computer coding class, theology, etc., and juniors have to take english, pre-calculus/trigonometry, US History, theology, etc… So pretty much there are really no “advanced” classes; those who care about GPAs all take the same honors classes, and those who don’t take same regular classes. This is one of the main reason for my thinking about transferring.

(Summary paragraph)
My current GPA is 4.3 (4.0 unweighted); SAT I score 2270 (710CR, 760M, 800W). SAT II expected are 750+ on physics, math2, and chemistry (maybe 800 on all three). I’m a rising senior. I am either 2nd or 3rd in my class, but since my class is so small this means that I will be either top 7% or 11% for applying to college. My school does not offer any AP classes, and I was thinking about transferring to another public school where I will be able to take 4-5 AP classes that I want and boost my class percentage within 5% for sure, and even 1-2% or even better valedictorian/salutatorian. Not trying to be smug here, please believe me; I’m just stating a high possibility and I am a hard worker. The drawback is that (1) I’m not going to be able to take AP exams (I mean, I can, but you can only take them on May, which is after college admission processes), and that (2) my teacher recommendation wouldn’t be as good as if I were staying in my current HS. (O and btw I am not at all concerned about the whole “adjusting to the new environment” thing; I get pretty well along, not gonna be bullied, am gonna make friends and socialize, etc.) Say that I will get all As for my AP classes if I transfer. And my summary question is this: 4-5 AP classes in senior year with all As in transcript vs. teacher recommendation… which one is better?

Thanks. I am VERY concerned and confused now.

For those who read only the summary paragraph: I played tennis for 5 years and was ranked 9th in Kansas state. I was elected for student representative for 2 consecutive years (if these information is relevant at all).

You’re the same person no matter how you slice and dice your class ranking and compare yourself to others.

There are very few colleges, if any, that would support the notion of changing schools in an attempt to jigger your application.

Umm… thanks @JustOneDad for replying, but I wasn’t concerned about whether I will be the same person if I change school. I was more concerned about what will boost my chances/what will look better on my college resume. In other words, does class rank matter much than teacher recommendation?


As I already tried to get you to understand, your class rank doesn’t change your accomplishments overall. Your HS class is an exceedingly small pool and I hope you understand that adcoms are accustomed to looking at things from a much broader perspective.

In general I don’t think switching HS would be a good idea and you noted some of the reasons in your post. In addition, your guidance counselor recommendations wouldn’t be very strong since he/she won’t know you well, you would have to give up any leadership positions in ECs which woudl hurt, and in general it would raise a red flag about why you made the move. Plus on a personal level why would you want to give up completing your senior year with friends and teachers you have been with from the start?

Do you best (you are doing quite well) stay the course and good things should happen as long as you don’t obsess about one or two hyper-competitive schools – keep your mind open to the many great colleges and universities out there and you should qualify for a number of them.

When colleges get your transcript they also get a school profile from your HS so the schools can look at your achievements in the context of the school. In addition, you are not “competing” against people from your HS for college spots, your application will be looked at in the context of the entire field of applicants.