Tons of Pressure to Choose the Right High School

Tons of Pressure to Choose the Right High School

By Tasha

Hi! Thanks in advance for reading this...

I know it's kinda soon for me to get into this but I will anyway... I'm feeling TONS of pressure to choose a high school to go to. That's right. Not college. High school. The school I'm zoned for is a good school (ranked like top 20 in the state I think) but it's dropped a bit because of budget issues.

FE: students in previous years had block scheduling and could earn up to 32 credits and now they're cutting the amount down to 28. (I think.) My school is really good at telling us about opportunities like scholarships to private schools and magnet schools and stuff, but it's just stressing me out because I don't really want to go to some magnet school where everyone is super focused on one thing or a private school where... I don't even know. But these are really good opportunities! So I'm confused. Mostly I'm cool with my 28 credits, but some of my friends are whining about how the school I'm going to has dropped in performance, etc. and it's getting me a bit worried. I hope to get into a good college on some sort of scholarship because my college funds = close to  zero, but I don't know how much chance I have of getting a scholarship for more than $500 and metro fare (haha.) or how much my chances are affected by my choice of high school. Obviously this depends on my actual record more than the school, but let's say average everything for argument's sake? Are my friends and I being overly dramatic or should I give serious thought to magnet / private schools? Thanks a lot!

Here's my honest opinion: I think you are focusing on the wrong things. Instead of thinking about the reputations of the two schools, try to figure out which school offers what matters to you. It sounds like the most important things to you are interesting courses, timely information about scholarship opportunities, and the kind of academic rigor that will prepare you for a fairly competitive 4-year college or university.

Now, how can you figure out which of the schools offers these three things? If I were you, I would set up meetings with the guidance counselors to go over some details. Ask them what percentage of last year’s graduates enrolled in a four-year college or university, and what percentage of those students received some form of aid money. The answers to these questions will help you determine which school is more focused on getting its graduates into colleges and universities. Also, talk about your interests, and ask if they have honors and AP classes in line with your strengths. Finally, ask what the guidance-counselor-to-student ratio is. The answer will tell you how much attention and information about scholarship opportunities you can expect. Also, wouldn’t it be nice to know you can drop by your counselor's office when a question about college admissions comes up, without having to wait in a line that’s a mile long?

I would also encourage you to tour the schools that you are considering and get a list of classes offerings. Who knows, you may find some wonderful instructors and courses at School A, and very few classes that pique your interest at School B. You want to make sure the high school you choose accommodates your interests and offers challenging, enjoyable classes. When you're interested and asked to work hard, success is sure to follow. That is key not only to furthering your education, but to being admitted into highly competitive schools that value a logical pattern of increasingly difficult courses.

Finally, one easy way to get information is to talk to current students and ask what they think their school's strengths and weaknesses are. I know this sounds a little hard, especially if you're a shy person, but most people love being asked for their opinions and advice. You could also talk to recent graduates about the professors, the school's focus, and overall academic culture. In short, do some basic research, and then follow your instincts.

Best wishes,

Tasha

You can email Tasha at advice@sparknotes.com.

Topics: high school, college admissions, magnet schools, private schools, public schools

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