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Articles / Applying to College / Which High School to Choose?

Which High School to Choose?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | April 22, 2013

Question: Which one is more important … SAT or class rank? I need to make a decision to go to a high school. One is very good with 4600 students. For sure, it is difficult to be on top. Another school is good too but smaller with 2700 students. The SAT score of the second school is 60 points lower. Which one should I go? Please advise.

If you have good grades in demanding courses but attend a highly competitive high school, college admission officials will be aware of this competition. So you should not shy away from a strong high school for fear that you will not stand out academically.

However, if the average SAT score at the second school is 60 points lower that at the first, that’s no reason to pass up this school. It doesn’t mean that YOUR scores will be 60 points lower. If this school isn’t as competitive as the other one, there may be more weak students there bringing that average down.

It’s a bad idea to choose a high school based on these factors. Instead, consider which school offers an environment that suits you best or which provides other attractions for you (e.g., better sports or better orchestra, more convenient hours or location; a variety of special programs). Ask students at BOTH schools what they like—and don’t—about their school.

Then ask yourself this: If you had already been guaranteed admission at your top-choice college, which one of these high schools would you want to attend? That’s the school you should choose!


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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