Breanna and her sister are the first in their family to go to college, and if you’re in the same boat, you probably understand what it’s like to have very little college guidance under your own roof.
Your folks are proud of you and supportive and all that, but they just don’t actually KNOW much about the admissions and financial aid process firsthand. That’s why Breanna is trying to help her little sister (she isn’t named here, so let’s call her Rihanna) figure out the college maze.
I’m writing in for my younger sister, who is a junior in high school and looking to me for advice about college, as we are both first generation college students. She is in a completely different situation than I was in high school, and I’m not really sure how to advise her about picking colleges and which colleges are “reach schools”,”Good matches” and “safety schools”.
I can help you with that. Let’s do it.
First of all, she goes to a high school/college. It’s a program designed to get high school students taking their required courses for high school and to also get them to finish their first two years of college within 5 years. In other words, there are no AP classes or honors classes to take because she can just take the actual college course.
Yeah, they’re called Early College High Schools, if you’re referring to what I think you are. Very cool stuff, actually, if you readers have never heard of them. Indeed, the students spend five years getting both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. For more information on the concept, check out the Early College High School Initiative website.
Unfortunately, her campus is very small (under 200 High school students total) and they have almost no clubs and no sports.
Unfortunate in terms of access to the standard high school resume fillers, yes. And, of course, getting all the life lessons and physical activity that come with sports. But if you’re thinking that the lack of sports and clubs will limit her marketability to colleges, I definitely disagree. More on that in a second.
Secondly, she’s currently doing a high school exchange in South Korea for one year, but I’m worried how this will affect the amount of time she has to prep for SAT’s.
Don’t worry much about that, for two reasons.
One, based on what you’ve said throughout this email and also the fact that she’s completing an associate’s degree while graduating from high school, I surmise she’s probably sharp enough to get an SAT score that’s more than sufficient for entry into plenty of schools.
Two, the fact that she’s completed and succeeded in an international exchange program before she’s turned 17 years old is well worth a bit lower SAT score, if it comes to that.
In short, the early college high school and the South Korean exchange are fantastic and unique things. Your sister should have no trouble at all getting into all but the most grueling and exclusive universities.
Finally, I should mention her overall GPA (college and high school) is a 3.4, she’s been class president, she’s been on prom committee, she played soccer and volley ball in middle school (not available at her high school), and she won a government scholarship to go to Korea for a year. She doesn’t have any SAT or PSAT scores though. Not yet at least.
The 3.4 GPA isn’t staggeringly impressive on its own, for sure. But the fact that she’s done it in the accelerated high school/college program and, again, done the Korean exchange makes up for it, far and away.
If I were on an admissions committee, I’d take your sister before I’d take someone with a 3.9 GPA from a normal high school who didn’t go abroad. (I mean, I’d take ’em both, but if I had to choose one, I’d choose your sister). As a scholarship judge, based on these facts alone, I’d advance your sister and drop the 3.9 student — just based on the unique qualifications.
So how do colleges view these kinds of ventures? My sister has taken on opportunities that I don’t think I’ve ever heard any advice column discuss before. Is going to a high school/ college a good thing? Is going abroad going to make her stand out significantly, or are colleges just going to look at the typical formula: SAT score, GPA, AP/Honors, and club/sport activities?
Yes — to all of it. 🙂 Yes, they’re a good thing, which I covered above.
Why are they a good thing? Well, obviously they show *ambition* above and beyond what you see from regular students. 99% of the time, American teenagers don’t leave their parents and go live with a strange family in a strange country for a year. Even fewer earn their diploma and associate’s in five years, combined.
It’s not that her SAT scores won’t matter at all; they will. But they matter LESS when you’ve got other parts of your resume that are strong and unique.
Many, many thousands of high school seniors look IDENTICAL on paper. I know this from many years of scholarship judging. Programs like those your sister is doing go a very long way and setting her apart from her peers.
Any advice would be helpful to both my sister and I! Thanks!
Well, that’s my best for the day. What about you guys? Any other early college high school students or exchange students out there have something to say on the matter. Let us know in the comments below!