Students who dream of getting into their college of choice immediately think that their competition is amongst the applications that come from the 42,634 high schools across the country. That's not even counting the applications from home schoolers! Although your application eventually gets compared to those from other high schools, the immediate comparison is closer than you think. In the next several weeks, the Knowledge is Power blog from College Driven will focus on one element of the college application that spans all four years of high school - your class schedule. I'll discuss the ideal classes highly-selective colleges expect you to take if you want to be a serious contender. I'll suggest ways to use your study hall wisely if you're forced to have one in your schedule. And, I'll help you decide whether or not AP or College Credit Plus classes will help or hurt your application, and which AP classes are best to take for highly-selective college consideration.
As you can see, class schedule planning must be strategic from Day One of your high school career. As you journey through, you'll have to know what the prerequisites are to lead you to where you want to end. For instance, if you want to leave high school by taking both AP Calculus BC AND AP Statistics, there needs to be a plan made to get you there, and that plan starts early (sometimes as early as 8th grade). When making your class schedule for the year, don't just look at where you are currently, look to where you want to be by Senior year.
Where Does the Comparison Begin?
When a college receives your application, the first person who reviews it is typically your area's college admission representative. It's the person that is familiar with high schools in the region where they have been assigned. But, they also rely on an important document that sets the pace for your college application: THE HIGH SCHOOL PROFILE REPORT. It's an all-important document provided by your high school to the college which provides a great deal of information about the high school you attend. One of the most important elements to that report involves a listing of AP classes available at your high school. So, initially, your college application is in competition with your high school profile report first, then your peers within your high school.
It's the only way colleges can compare students from vastly different schools. If your upper-middle class school system offers 15 AP classes, but you only take 1 AP class, you won't look so great compared to the downtown city-school student where, due to socioeconomic conditions, their highest level class offerings only include 3 Honors courses, and that student took them all! It's about taking the opportunity and seizing what's available to you. It's about challenging yourself and extending your mind and feeding your curiosity through the resources your high school provides. You can't be at a disadvantage if your high school doesn't provide the same offerings as other schools do. Highly selective colleges want to see that you have taken full advantage of your school's class offerings. (In fairness, it's also why colleges recalculate every student's GPA to insure equity of comparison amongst their applicants.)
How Do You Rate?
It's important to get a copy of your high school's Profile Report. This is what the college representative in your area is looking at and using to compare your statistics to the school's. If you're not taking advantage of the offerings fully, if you're not challenging yourself to the next level your school provides to you, then maybe a highly selective college isn't for you, and that's okay. But, if your goal is to apply to those highly selective colleges, then review your high school profile report and evaluate how you look against your initial competition - those sitting right beside you.
Links to Local High School Profile Reports
These are just some schools whose students I work with at College Driven where you can find the high school profile report easily. Usually, the report is found under the college guidance tab of the school's website, but the location varies.
The competition of being accepted into highly-selective colleges begins where you are, then extends out to the rest of the country. Be honest with yourself and evaluate your chosen class schedule through the perspective of what college reps see when viewing your own school's High School Profile Report.
We'll continue the class schedule discussion next week and talk about study hall.