Preparing for College

College Admissions Implications of Transfer Back to 9th-Grade Private School

My freshman year in high school I went to school at a very prestigious private school in my city. I had been at this school since 7th grade. My sophomore year I decided to attend a prestigious boarding school in MA and I am finishing up my junior year now. My grades at both schools are very similar. I am an honor roll student. For my senior year I'm thinking about returning to my old school to graduate with my freshman class. My question is how does this look to colleges and the application process?

It's okay to transfer back to your original school but it's also possible that admission committees will spot a red flag--at least a small one--and wonder why you left your boarding school at such a critical time in your academic career. You don't want them to suspect that you were in some sort of hot water there.

So I suggest that you use the "Additional Information" section of your applications to explain why you're making this move. (A separate letter or extra essay would do the trick, too.)

Keep in mind that some reasons (e.g., "I didn't like the teachers there" or "I didn't fit in that well with the school community") will raise their antennae more than others ("I want to spend my last year with my family in a place where I truly am with my family"). Academic reasons always work well too. ("My old school has smaller classes" or "My old school offers anthropology, which I think may be my college major.")

I assume that you have looked into the academic program you would pursue at the day school to make sure you can make as seamless a transition as possible. In other words, are the courses you were planning to take at the boarding school (or reasonable facsimiles) also offered at the day school and will there be a spot for you in each of them? Similarly, I assume that your old private school has already told you that there is a place for you in the senior class overall. Many "prestigious" high schools don't accept new seniors (although maybe they won't count you as "new") or rarely have vacancy in 12th grade for anyone.

Also keep in mind that, by transferring now, you may be missing out on opportunities to take leadership roles in school or to continue with favorite extracurricular activities. Your interests and activities may be such that they won't be at all affected by the move, but this is still something you want to factor into your decision, if you haven't made it yet.

Hope that helps. Good luck to you, whatever you decide.