Impact of Two Repeated High School Grades on Elite Acceptance

Question: I am a high school student who is currently attending a boarding school in the United States. Due to my mother’s job, I had always traveled to different countries and studied in many different places. During my sophomore year; I applied to a boarding school (the one that I am currently attending) as an international student (I am Asian), but they told me to repeat my sophomore year instead of attending the school as a junior because I had missed half a year of school due mainly to family problems, not academic or behavioral problems. I did what they told me and repeated my sophomore year. I did great on both of my sophomore years in Canada and United States, had almost all As with one B and a high GPA. However, I feel like I had almost no extracurricular activities, and the school is not giving me enough support. So I was thinking maybe after this junior year (I am currently a junior in high school), I should transfer to another school for another junior year to brighten up my extracurricular and focus less on my academics to make my applications better. So there are two questions that I want to ask you:

  1. I repeated my sophomore year due to family problems. Will this affect my chances of admission to colleges, especially those prestigious one?

  2. How do colleges view double repeats? Will repeating two years of high school significantly lower your chances of admission?

It is common for students to repeat the first year in boarding school, and thus doing so should not have any negative impact on your college acceptances. However, repeating yet again most likely would. Six years in high school instead of the usual four would be a red flag to admission officials and might suggest problems that really aren’t there, especially if you plan to apply to the most prestigious colleges.

Colleges that aren’t as competitive will not be as picky and will evaluate you primarily on your course selection, grades, test scores and—to a lesser extent—extracurriculars. So if you are determined to transfer to a new school and to be a junior all over again, you can rest assured that this won’t torpedo your admissions odds everywhere. But admission folks at the colleges that turn away far more candidates than they accept are likely to have concerns about a student who did not do just one extra year of high school, which is commonplace, but two.

Occasionally, there are valid reasons for a student to repeat two different grades, but this practice should be reserved for atypical or serious situations (e.g., for those who started high school unusually early or for life-threatening medical problems) and not for anyone who simply wants to bolster a resume.

Because you have good grades and an interesting background (all that relocation!), you should have many college options, even if they aren’t exactly the ones you’re aiming for. But I do fear that repeating a grade yet again won’t get you where you want to go either.