No, don’t freak out. You can still find and get into a good college if you don’t start the college admissions process by 8th grade. However, there are instances when it can be helpful to have early help.
Today I am going to talk about the most common question I am asked by parents of 8th graders: should a student attend a local public high school or a private high school?
In looking at this issue there are several factors to consider. Most importantly, what courses are offered at each of the high schools. Are there a variety of AP courses available in different subject areas? How many students participate in these programs and what type of scores do students receive on the AP tests?
A second factor to consider is the level of academic rigor at each of the schools. In most cases, the private high school will be stronger academically. That also means it will be more difficult to get an “A” in a class and more difficult to rank in the top 10% of the class. For some students, being in the top 20 or 30% of the class at a strong private high school may be better than top 10% at a weaker public school. For some students, having a higher class rank at the public school may be the most important thing. There is no one right answer for all students.
Related to the academic rigor question is the issue of where graduates of a particular high school attend college. If you are considering a selective college, then the number of students each high school sends to such colleges and their rank or grade point averages, is something you will want to know.
The third factor you need to understand is the breakdown of SAT and ACT scores from each of the high schools you are considering. Typically, the higher the average SAT and ACT scores, the more competitively the students will be for selective colleges.
A fourth factor to consider are the extracurricular offerings at each of the high schools. Most private high schools will have a larger variety of activities available for a student to get involved in. If you are interested in lacrosse, for instance, you may only have the sport available at the private school.
In looking at these factors you may be thinking that in most cases, the private high school is going to be the clear winner. And you would be right. But, as with many things related to college admissions, it is not that simple. Selective colleges know the strong private high schools and view them favorably. However, the days of everyone at a particular selective college coming from one of several private schools is long gone.
Colleges are looking for diversity in their classes and this includes diversity between private and public high schools. The majority of students attending the selective colleges come from public high schools.
Colleges are also competing with each other to have students with good grades. It is often easier to get good grades at a public high school because frankly, the overall student population is less competitive.
There is no one right answer to the question of whether a private or public high school is the better choice. I help parents and students answer the question by examining the relative merits of each of the schools and by understanding how each of those factors may have an influence on the students search for the best college for their needs.