HS Relationship with college

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: HS Relationship with college
By Burllinz (Burllinz) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 01:12 pm: Edit

We visited Yale with my D last week. She loved it and put it at the top of her list. Her stats are very good. She will be a senior in the fall.

Currently 4.0 UW GPA, 1 out of 270
1600 SAT
SAT IIs: 790 US History, 770 Writing, 720 IC
Rigorous Courseload for High School
Varsity Soccer(2 years), indoor track(3 Years), and tennis (4 Years)
Captain of indoor track and tennis senior year
Other clubs with leadership etc.
Various academic awards including the Harvard Book Award

We have not known of any students from her high school that have been accepted to Yale in as far back as we can remember. Many have been accepted to Harvard, Dartmouth, Brown, MIT, Cornell, Amherst, etc. My question is will this hurt her chances to be accepted to Yale? Is it important for there to be a relationship between the high school and the college you are applying to?

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 01:24 pm: Edit

Why don't you talk to the guidance counselor in charge of college counseling at your highschool and find out if it is just a statistical fluke, or if there had been a problem with Yale. One of the other parents came up with a question of this sort when he found out that his child's highschool did indeed have an outstanding issue with a school. I believe if that is the case, and the child feels that this college is one he wants, he should add a cover letter to the application broaching the subject and requesting an unprejudiced reading of his application. Most people warm up to a direct appeal to fairness and the right thing to do. At no time should anyone get confrontational about the issue.

As for a relationship with the college, yeah, it can help in some cases to have such a relationship, but the downside is that it can also hurt. The exchange of info is not always beneficial to the student. When you have a highschool GC who is buddy-buddy with an adcom, some info about a student can go down the pike that should not. Many schools have a keep mum policy on infractions and issues about students unless they are big time. Well, if you have a line between GC and adcom, info might just get released that ordinarily not be. Also, the GC could push certain kids over other for reasons such as interest in the schools, other school applied to, random statements the kid has made, his personal prejudices. It's great when your kid is on the receiving end of such relationships and he gets into a school that would have been a true stretch for him otherwise, but it can also go the other way just as easily. Informational recommendations do not always just have the good info in it. That is why some schools can get kids into the top schools a bit easier--they give out a lot of info on the kid instead of the palp that most highschools send in their hackneyed recs.

To direct answer your last question--no. It can help, at time, impede at times. But do talk to your GC and find out what the scoop is with Yale and your school.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 01:40 pm: Edit

Your posts does perk my interest. I have a daughter who just went through the college process with a similar profile (except NOT the 1600 part) in terms of academics and ECs overall. I don't think anyone from our high school has ever gone to Yale either. The year before the sal got waitlisted there. That's it that I know of. I don't think that it is a case of anything bad that happened in the past between our high school and Yale. Rather, nobody has yet to get in there (there would not be that many applicants in any year). And yes, we have had kids go to Harvard, Stanford, Brown, Dartmouth, Cornell, Williams, Penn, and so on, not many but some. Don't know of any to have ever gone to Princeton or Yale though, two of the schools my D applied to. Those were the only two she did not get in, not that I am making any connection here but simply stating the facts. She was waitlisted at Princeton. She was deferred Early Action at Yale, but rejected in April.

If you have ever read The Gatekeepers, you will see how in some better known public schools or private prep schools, the school and/or guidance counselor have an ongoing rapport with the admissions committees at selective colleges. My D did not have that going for her at our school (though I recognize Jamimom's well put thoughts that in some instances, it could be detrimental but in the case of a val or kids like this poster's or mine, it may have helped if there was some relationship there). So, nobody at Yale knew of our school or anyone at it. However, my D's Guidance counselor did call her regional adcom after the deferral to advocate for her which was a very nice gesture. I know that GCs at the well known feeder schools do this ALL the time. I have read many accounts. This is not to say any of that makes or breaks anything. Surely your daughter has an excellent candidate for admission to Yale. The only trouble is when Yale is taking 9.9%, you end up seeing kids with this profile not necessarily making it in. But she has as good a chance as anyone, if not better. Don't fret the lack of a high school - college connection. You can't change that. Your GC hopefully will write a glowing report and maybe can advocate for your D. All is not riding on the relationship between your school and Yale though. It mostly will come down to whether they wish to have your D fill one of the slots in the class. She certainly has what it takes, no question. Also things sometimes work in reverse in that they might be looking to attract kids to the school that are NOT all from the typical feeder schools, so you never know. Our school is surely not a feeder school to elite colleges. My daughter was the only one in her class to go to an Ivy league school. But it can happen. No need to get concerned on this factor too much but just focus on your D putting together an app that shows how she is special and needed on their campus!

Good luck.


By Hoosfun (Hoosfun) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 10:13 am: Edit

I believe that the HS-College relationship may, in fact, play a role in some decisions.

I went to a very well regarded public high school, and for years we had difficulty getting people into Brown and Georgetown. In my class, we sent two to Brown, but they were both athletic admits... strange because we seemed to have no problem sending people to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dmouth, Caltech and MIT, and especially Stanford, our nextdoor neighboor (a clear instance of the a relationship between HS and college).

By Idler (Idler) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 10:48 am: Edit

It's worth remembering that nearly every high school and g.c. in the country very much wants to get their candidate into Yale (and the other schools mentioned above), which reflects glory on them as well as the candidate. Adcoms, in turn, are very much aware of this, and while this doesn't exactly devalue such lobbying, it greatly limits its effectiveness.

By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 11:24 am: Edit

For twenty years (ending around 2000), my high school sent roughly 15-18 students per year to Harvard, and 10-15 to Yale. Not a single student got into Princeton during that 20-year period. Going back 40 years (which is about where I was), there might be one a year at Princeton and at Williams (I was the one my year, out of 9 that applied -- and I was no better than 8th among the 9 candidates; I later found out why they took me -- that's for another time) Forty years ago it was pretty overt anti-Semitism and Jewish quotas (yes, this is the late 1960s); more recently, it has been (at Princeton) an anti-Asian bias (most of the applicants from Stuyvesant would have been Asian.)

In the case of my high school, at least as late as 2000), in the case of Princeton EVERYTHING stood on the relationship between the high school and the university. Nothing was more important - not test scores, grade point average, essays, recommendations. In fact, none of these other factors made a difference in the least.

People often forget that the elite colleges are NOT accepting individuals (as much as we would like it to be that way), but building a class that meets the institution's needs. These needs include accepting offspring of wealthy donors, legacies, sons and daughters of politicians, football players, fencers, oboe players; keeping long-term relationships with feeder schools and making the gc's there happy; sons and daughters of ambassadors and foreign dignitaries; math superstars. Then they want at least a little "face diversity". Once you remove all of these from the mix, the actual acceptance rate for the rest is about 5% (though note: international students usually get accepted at a much lower rate, which pads the selectivity numbers.)

So you (or your d.) shouldn't take it personally. It has virtually nothing to do with her. With some luck, she'll get in. Without it, she won't. There's probably not a lot the gc can do about it. (If I were you, I'd have her contacting all the athletic coaches.)

By Dstark (Dstark) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 11:33 am: Edit

Time for the gc to form a relationship with Yale.
Like an above poster, my kid's high school did not send anybody to Brown, or Georgetown (or Yale).
The gc visited Brown and Georgetown and read the schools the riot act (in a nice way).
The next year, two kids got into Brown.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 11:47 am: Edit

I already shared how nobody from our unknown rural school has gone to Yale or Princeton (two schools on my Ds list) that I know of. But she is going to Brown. Now, we only have about one or two kids per year going to a school like that. This year, she is the only kid going to an Ivy so I am saying that to simply give perspective. But now that I think about it regarding Brown....two years ago, our val got into Brown. This year, my daughter was val. None of these schools send an adcom rep to visit our high school. The only school on my D's list that visited our high school was Smith where she did get in. But anyway, there is a big college fair that takes place in Burlington, VT. Yale and Princeton did not attend that fair. But Brown did. My daughter met face to face with her regional adcom there who totally remembered the boy who had gotten in from our high school as well. Also her GC made a point of meeting the adcom from Brown too, and they remembered one another from this previous boy and I know our GC likely spoke of my daughter to her. This kind of thing takes place on a MUCH MUCH larger scale with feeder publics and privates and NOT at our high school whom the adcoms at elites do not know. But this little interchange with the Brown rep and other schools my D applied to that were at the college fair did happen. Again, no Yale or Princeton though. I cannot say the linkage to any of this but simply offer these observations.

The OP's child is highly qualified. As we all know there are way too few slots for these qualified kids at the top colleges and there is a sense of lottery involved as to whether the child will get one of the slots. It is entirely possible that her daughter get in from an unknown high school. My own kid did pretty well on that front. But I do mention that the "nobody went to Yale or Princeton" and she only got so far as the waiting list with these as one observation. Who knows the actual reasons or any of it. I do not at one moment blame it on the unknown high school factor. I think there is a lot of odds involved. Sometimes it IS an advantage to come from a known high school with an ongoing relationship with a college but sometimes they do like to reach out and take kids from unknown places! So, there is hope!


By Blossom (Blossom) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 07:46 pm: Edit

I'll add my two cents... although clearly I'm not an adcom. Based on my observations of our urban, public high school which can usually get the top 3- 5 kids into elite schools, and everyone else into the local State U. or a lesser ranked institution:
1)grade inflation is rampant
2)Our school has "dumbed down" the traditional high school curriculum, so that photography and band and yearbook are academic subjects and not after school activities
3)PC notions of "fairness" demand that "Women and their Voices" counts as an English class in the same way that studying Thackery and Henry James does (and no, Edith Wharton is not read in the Women's voices class.... the reading list looks like what we used to think of as "beach reads".
4)BC Calc and AP Physics (considered the two hardest classes in the school) are unevenly taught... one year there was a great teacher who didn't stay, one year there was a dud who was a chapter ahead of the class most days, scores in the class ranged from 1-4 but nobody every got a 5;
5)An Adcom visiting the school (a rare occurence, but it does happen) would have to be blind not to notice the state-of-the art parking lot, the gleaming asphalt on the basketball court, and the empty library and obselete science labs.

Life is unfair if your exceptional kid is coming out of an unexceptional school (or at least a school without a reputation among elite colleges) but there are a couple of things you can do. First, get a copy of the school summary that the GC will include with the recommendations. You'd be shocked by how many people assume that it's up to date and gives a reasonable snapshot of your kids curriculum and the socio-economics of your town.... it rarely is current. Little errors in nomenclature mean a lot. If the profile claims that your school offers 4 years of Latin (which it hasn't since the Latin teacher died four years ago) and your kid is taking Latin II as a senior (and no other foreign language), that's a problem. If the profile claims that 10% qualify for free or reduced price lunches and the number is actually 60%, that's a problem. Adcoms look at a top kid like yours a little differently if she's coming from Great Neck or Lake Forest vs. Yonkers or the South Bronx (not to pick on any town, but you catch my drift). Make sure that the profile is accurate.

Second, do the same drill with the transcript. Your kid may think she's taking the most rigorous program offered, but if the transcript designates her Chem class as "accelerated", the highest level offered in the school, most adcoms with a quick glance will conclude that she's not taking AP Chem.... Accelerated is usually a code word for "college track but not advanced". Make sure that any funky grading is annotatated if it doesn't follow either the standard numerical system or ABC etc. If there are classes down that your daughter has taken, they need to have a grade-- blank spaces stand out like a sore thumb and suggest an incomplete, a pre-finals drop, etc. Make sure the absences and tardy columns are consistent with the truth, or get the GC to take them off.... if your kids takes public transportation to school and was late for three months last year during a transit strike, the adcom won't know that... just makes your kid look like a slacker.

Third, your daughter will need to do some homework before asking teachers to write recommendations. Our school has a popular English teacher who is an alumna of an elite school, who is usually mobbed by seniors wanting rec's. I can't tell you the number of sob-stories I've heard of how she stuffed the Carnegie Mellon rec into the Harvard envelope, lost the JHU rec entirely and found it in May long after the kid was rejected, etc. Does it matter? Who knows, but why add another element of uncertainty to the already uncertain process? There are also teachers who only know three adjectives, so unless your daughter enjoys being described as "fabulous", "amazing", or "really amazing", avoid those teachers like the plague. If the college doesn't know your school, the rec's will be read very carefully, so they'd better enrich your daughter's case, and not make her sound like a valley girl with a tennis racket.

Finally finally finally....follow the directions on the application. If they ask you NOT to send a music tape, don't send one. If they ask you NOT to send slides of artwork unless you're applying for a special program, don't. If they suggest that you use the common app and apply online, don't try to outsmart them by printing out the common app, and mailing it in with a ton of your own appendices to show them how inadequate their application is. Trust me, they know what U. Chicago's essays are this year, so don't write the two essays that Yale requires and then add on your brilliant essays from all your other applications. At every school we visited we heard some variant of "the thicker the file, the thicker the kid", and if your GC lacks the experience or the savvy that the Groton and Dalton GC's have, you may be tempted to ignore that advice.... but you should probably take the schools at face value and do what they ask you to do. In my opinion, the resumes and activities lists that have become so popular are probably a major irritant to Adcoms... fill in the blanks on the application, and save the resumes for the GC and teachers, who can then incorporate that material into a really vivid,specific recommendation instead of the usual, "Janie is a role model for the rest of the senior class" without any anecdote or fact to back that up.

Hope that helps and good luck.

By Candi1657 (Candi1657) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 08:01 pm: Edit

I can't speak in general about the importance of the high school-college relationship.

However, what I can say is that my school hasn't sent a single person to an Ivy/top ten school as far back as any staff can remember. In fact, my guidance counselor tried to discourage me from applying to such schools, saying such things like, "Well, no one ever gets into there from here." However, I still managed to get into a couple of good schools, including Yale. So, I don't believe it is a deal breaker, although I'm obviously offering only anecdotal evidence.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 08:33 pm: Edit

I think you can use your HS not having sent students to an elite college to your advantage. Especially if you live in an under represented State, the school has a low SES makeup or is anything but upper middle class. The elite schools very much want kids from every corner. Start by talking to the regional adcom and asking why kids from your school haven't gone in the past. Say how much you want to be the first! They don't need another 10 kids from Exeter!!

By Momsdream (Momsdream) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 08:37 pm: Edit

{so that photography and band and yearbook are academic subjects and not after school activities}

My son took photography last year in his soph year, as a subject (but his interest in art history).

Maybe this isn't so bad for your school, Blossom.

Though, combined with the other mentioned changes, I can see your point.

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 09:34 pm: Edit

My S basically did what Mom101 advises, and he's first from his school to be accepted into his college. He wrote an essay about taking math last few years at local college, as well as Latin, econ, physics,...courses not offered in his HS.
If S does well in this school, it could help future applicants, but if not,would definitely hurt them.
S has good friends at H, Penn, JHU, but more because parents actively involved than GCs. We didn't get advice from GC, doubt any phone calls EVER made from HS, but recommendations and transcripts sent on time. I never expected more.

By Willywonka (Willywonka) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 12:39 am: Edit


I so do wish that my half of Maryland, the rural peninsula half, would form its own state. There isn't a school in the entire area that can stand up next to Montgomery-Blair or private schools in Baltimore. It really is like two different worlds, and I wonder if adcoms know that.

I think it's time to have a very serious talk with the GC. This year was probably the most "exotic" we've ever had, with one girl enrolled at NYU and one at William and Mary. The map in the GC's office displays a good range of schools that we send kids to, geographically, but it usually just ends up being state schools along the east coast. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but you get my point.

It also doesn't help that my school is actually in the only city on the peninsula, and I'm the only student from my "village" that goes there, and besides my town, the rest of the district is pretty wealthy. So, whatever school information is sent to schools probably won't reflect my lower income, first generation college student, rural profile very well.

Okay, self-pity party's over, thanks for bearing with me.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 12:58 am: Edit

Willywonka, it's your job, through you applications, to help the schools see those things. All of this, presented well, will work to you advantage. Buck up! My kids wish they were first generation, rural, lower income kids where college is concerned!!

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 01:11 am: Edit

>> So, whatever school information is sent to schools probably won't reflect my lower income, first generation college student, rural profile very well.

No problem. Just communicate who you are in your essays, cover letter, etc.

My daughter refered to her high school as a "rural public high school" and refered to herself as a "small-town high school girl" in different places in her essay answers.

Make a list of "things" that you want to communicate -- rural, lower income, first generation, etc. Then, think about where in the application you can communicate each of these. Planning the application is about like hanging ornaments on Christmas tree. You've got the box of ornaments. You've got the tree branches. Where can you put each ornament?

Some things might be so important that they actually serve as an essay topic. Others might be useful bits of information about who you are that can be woven into an essay answer.

By Willywonka (Willywonka) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 02:37 am: Edit

Mom101 and ID, I understand have some of those things so far in sample essays I've written for myself, and you're right. I do love a good chance to rant about Montgomery County, so I was really just seizing the opportunity, I apologize.

It was worth it to end up getting the analogy in ID's post confused and imagining myself as a Christmas tree and trying to find places to put everything on my branches.

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