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Articles / Applying to College / Help for Senior Transferring from Small High School to Larger One

May 26, 2011

Help for Senior Transferring from Small High School to Larger One

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.

(posted 5/25/2011)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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