How Do College Admission Officials View "Elite" High School Applicants?

Question: When you look at a students application, does a elite high school make a difference.

Admission officials endeavor to learn enough about every applicant's high school to understand the level of rigor—and competition—that the applicant has faced. When a student has attended an “elite" school … which is presumably a challenging school as well … the admission folks will evaluate him or her in the context of this demanding environment. They certainly realize that A's are handed out liberally at some high schools but can be hard to earn at others. Admission officials also know that a strong—even if not stellar—student at a top high school is more likely to make a smooth transition to college work than a student who has sailed through an easier high school.

But … students at elite high schools who are applying to the most sought-after colleges also have to realize two things that could significantly affect their outcomes:

  1. Plenty of students from elite high schools will have A's in the Most Demanding courses despite the rigor. So students with B's or C's will still face “competitors" who have higher GPA's from comparable schools.
  1. At the elite high schools, both private and public, large numbers of seniors often apply to the same short list of colleges (i.e., the Ivies and their ilk plus the most selective liberal arts colleges). So, although admission officials may insist that applicants are never “competing" with their classmates, the truth is that colleges are likely to limit the number of students they accept from one high school in order to diversify their freshman class.

The bottom line is that college admission officials will view each candidate in the context of where he or she attended high school, and there is no sure-thing route to a first-choice college.