Question: I am finishing off my junior year at a smaller, rural high school where I am currently in the running for the number one spot of our class as well being involved in athletics and other activities. However, next year I am going to live with my grandma and will be attending a larger high school. With a 3.93 GPA I doubt I will be Valedictorian, and I also don't think I will be able to make it in varsity athletics, knowledge bowl, and other activities with the higher selection. With a 29 on the ACT (planning to retake), I'm not expecting to go to an Ivy league college, but I am still worried about how the decreased involvement would look. My question is: How can I make up for this, or am I worrying about nothing?
Switching from a small school to a big one in your senior year will definitely be a challenge. As you suggest, in your new school you may not be the valedictorian, and you might not make the sports teams or other selective activities that you enjoyed at your previous school. However, this transition could be an excellent topic for your main college essay—one that would enable admission officials to understand why you don't hold school offices or star on sports teams and which could tell them a lot about you as they read how you've weathered this significant change.
On the other hand, don't rule out taking part in your favorite activities or finding new ones that didn't exist at your previous school. I'm sure there are lots of clubs that will welcome you. But if you're not as involved at your new school as you've been in the past, you may find that you have more free time to pursue hobbies or personal interests. College admission committees always like to hear about these “hidden extracurriculars." You should never feel that only organized undertakings will qualify as application fodder.
So try not to worry about how your changed circumstances will affect your college outcomes. Instead, take advantage of this opportunity to meet new people and try different opportunities and perhaps even to “reinvent yourself," if you wish (New nickname? Clothing style? Hair color?)
Good luck to you as you make the move.
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