Question: I attend a magnet school in NJ that is just four years old. My junior class has only 89 students, and no AP classes are offered. I would like to go to NYU, but I am concerned about how colleges look at magnet schools. Should I transfer for my senior year to my local high school OR should I stay in this magnet school and do my best and hope to go to a good college?
Being in a magnet school will NOT hurt your admission chances at NYU or at other highly selective schools, even if no AP classes are offered. Admission officials will evaluate your transcript in the context of WHAT IS AVAILABLE TO YOU. Applications will ask your counselor to designate whether your course load is "Most Demanding, "Very Demanding," "Somewhat Demanding," etc. when compared to that of your classmates.
You don't explain what--if anything--makes your magnet school different from other schools. Does it have a particular focus (e.g., arts, sciences)? Is it geared to students who are academically strong or special in any other way? When the time comes to apply to colleges, it might be appropriate for you to write a supplementary essay or letter than explains to admission committees why you chose to attend that school and what you like about it.
So, if you do indeed like your school and consider it academically challenging, there is no reason to go elsewhere. However, if you feel that your curriculum isn't sufficiently rigorous or you're not interested in your courses (or you find yourself in front of the TV with a industrial-sized bag of Doritos most every night!), then you may want to consider the transfer. Keep in mind, too, that you can always supplement your current schedule with enrichment courses, perhaps online or at a local college (at night, on weekends, or over the summer). Also, if you're especially good in a particular subject, you can sign up to take the corresponding AP test this May, even if you haven't taken an official AP class. (Ask your school counselor for details or write back if your counselor can't help.)