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Old 11-13-2019, 05:54 AM
Manda JO is online now
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Join Date: Jul 1999
Posts: 11,885
Originally Posted by Disheavel View Post
100% this. AP classes and the number thereof dominate every other measure. IB is a far distant second. If you have a lot of AP classes, you have a college focused high school with 4+ years of classes in every subject and teachers that are generally motivated and student focused. AP classes also denote a harder, heavier workload and colleges recognize that as a student up to the challenge of college courses.

We have many neighbor kids who in their 11th and 12th grade years wish they had gone to a different high school as they "have taken every class offered and don't have any more impressive classes" to build or fill out their report card for college. And they went to the local high schools with 0 or 4 AP classes.
Well, then, you'd love my school, because that's all we offer, and we are at or near the top of all the lists because of it. And for the right student, it's a wonderful school: if you've been bored in every math class you've ever been in, the chance to take a math class that takes you from Algebra 2 to Calc AB by the end of your Freshman year is pretty freaking wonderful. And colleges certainly know us, and we have a good track record for matching kids with a good schools with good funding.

But some kids really regret coming. There's real sacrifices. Like, we don't have sports or cheer or Homecoming or all those traditional high school experiences. We have other experiences--because it's a small school and almost everyone takes the same stuff, you bond over titrations and SAT prep and college essays much more tightly than at a big comprehensive, where not everyone is coming from the same place and the school part of school is a much smaller part of your relationships with your friends. It's also different to be surrounded by people that know math and science--you can make some pretty nerdy jokes and be confident everyone will know what you mean.

And I think some of our kids romanticize the "ideal" high school experience they don't have. (I'm always thinking "you know they have a social hierarchy, right? You know where you'd be, don't you?") But I will very openly admit that it's a mistake for some kids to have come to our school, and not for academic reasons.

Anyway, I give presentations on this, and these are the questions we tell people do ask themselves:

What are the course offerings/academic opportunities and do they match my goals? Not everywhere offers computer science, journalism, physics C, art history, whatever. I have found a surprising number of people don't realize how much course offerings vary. Not everywhere has calculus! Other places only have certain classes some years--so you can't be sure it will be there when you need it. Others have barriers to entry--like, only 15 kids out of 600 are allowed to take Physics C. So you may be locked out.

What is the average SAT/ACT score? What supports are offered to improve yours? There are a lot of schools that treat the SAT/ACT as having nothing to do with the school. There are others that offer a lot of support. Depending on your goals, this makes a big difference.

What opportunities are there to get involved? Are they the kind of thing you like to do? From mock trial to journalism to crew to math team to model UN to Physics Olympiad, there are a million extracurricular activities out there--but no school has all of them, and many schools have only a few that they do very well. Generally speaking, high school is more pleasant if you can find your people--and college applications are more successful if you've done something besides watch YouTube and hang our for 4 years. So make sure the high school you are looking at has the things you like to do. Don't assume everyone has an active student council or science fair.

What is the culture of the school? Will you feel at home? This is harder to get a feel for, but it's important. There are schools that are more competitive, more collaborative, more academic, more sporty, more angsty. Like, we have a sister school that is a lot like us but the culture is a lot more project-based. Our kids would rather have a study guide.

What happens after high school? This is often overlooked. Some schools have one counselor for 500 kids, and they are also the testing coordinator, so the reality is they expect college applications to be handled by parents or private counselors because they don't have time. That's an institutional decision that college access is not their jurisdiction. In other schools, you have every stage of the college application process integrated into the classes, and support and advice at every step. And lots are somewhere in between.

Last edited by Manda JO; 11-13-2019 at 05:56 AM.