Meet the Class is an opportunity for parents, educators, and admissions professionals to get a look at individual seniors and what they go through to find their college.
It’s updated each month from September to May. Each month will feature an interview about both the facts and the feelings of where the student is in the process.
Interviews may be edited lightly for clarity and grammar. Names may be changed to protect privacy.
If you're a senior willing to share your experience with us, it's not too late! You'll need to commit to about 15-30 minutes of answering emailed interview questions. And if you're under 18, you'll need to get a parent to approve. Becasue I want to get a variety of experiences and contexts, I'd especially love to hear from you if you live outside Texas or if you're homeschooled. Click on the Contact button at the top of the page, or email me at Benjamin@applywithsanity.com.
In this first post in the series, we meet Grace. Grace is a senior in the Houston area. She attends a public magnet high school.
Tell me about your school.
My high school is a GT/Vanguard only school, and offers only Pre-AP, AP, and Honors courses. All 600 students there have Vanguard status, which makes it a very competitive school despite its small size. ["Vanguard" is the name for the district-wide program for Gifted & Talented students.] I have been there all four years.
What is your sense of how many of the graduates of your high school go on to college? What kinds of colleges do they go to? When it comes to going off to college, what's "normal" for your high school?
I would like to say that 100% of students go onto a four year college or higher, but it's not uncommon for students to take a gap year. Looking at the previous year's list, few students go to Ivy League schools and very well known colleges (MIT, Duke). There is a good amount of students that go to Top Tier colleges out of state (Bryn Mawr, Occidental, Northeastern etc.), which seems to be the normal trend over the past years that I have been there. There has been an increasing number of students that stay in state and go to schools such as UT Austin, Texas A&M, Trinity and Baylor.
Is college preparation a big deal in your high school? Do people talk about college a lot? Is it assumed that you will, or even might, go to college?
At my school, college is essentially the goal for most students. Starting from freshman year, students tend to think about what colleges they want and what grades are needed for acceptance. Since the school itself is high in rigor, preparation academically doesn't seem like much of a problem for most, but it's the acceptance aspect that makes students be more active in the school.
How much direct instruction about college applications or choosing a college have you got from your school, either from teachers or from counselors?
At the end of the junior year, students are given a slot to meet with the counselors to discuss potential schools and test scores, as well as address any questions the student may have. The counselors are available for help, and if you need help you are encouraged to reach out for it. Teachers will ask you what your plans are, but it's very rare for one to offer help on applications.
Can you think of any good advice you've received about college applications from anyone at your school?
I think the most important advice I have received is never neglect your safety schools, and to be comfortable with the idea of attending there. While they are your backup schools, it's important to put in as much effort in your applications as you would to an Ivy. It's important to choose a school you'll be able to afford financially. The last thing you want is to go to a school that you're not excited about attending.
Are there any colleges that you're sure you'll apply to? Is one of them your "dream school"?
I know for sure that I will be applying to UT Austin, Trinity, Baylor and UH. My dream school is UT Austin for multiple reasons. The College of Liberal Arts has a cross college major (Health and Society) that fits perfectly as an undergrad and will help me obtain my Masters in Health Administration in the future. In addition, it is relatively cheaper with the in-state tuition compared to out-of-state tuition and will be easier for my mother to finance my undergrad (I plan on saving money for my graduate degree). A little extra bonus is the location and school spirit; my school lacks any, and I'm excited to go to a school I can be involved in and have Texas sized pride for.
What other colleges are you thinking of applying to?
I'm thinking about Occidental College, Lafayette College, Swarthmore College and perhaps Texas Tech.
What colleges have you visited or toured? Did any of them stand out as being especially good or bad?
I did a summer college tour with a program I'm involved in that helps low income, high achieving, minority, first generation students attend top tier colleges. I was able to attend the Philadelphia tour and went to UPenn, Gettysburg, Franklin and Marshall, Lafayette, Lehigh, Haverford, Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr. Lafayette stood out to me because it had a more friendly environment and has amazing opportunities for students. Lehigh left a bad taste in me mostly due to the lack of enthusiasm the admissions officers and students had for their school.
What are the main things you're looking for in a college?
I am looking for affordability, the right program for me, distance from home/large city, medium to large school population, and--as always--good food. :)
Have you talked with your family about money? Do you know how much you can afford to pay per year? Do you know how college will be paid for?
I have talked to my mother about affording college and we agree that ultimately the college that will be best is the one that is more affordable considering that I have two other sisters that will have to attend college as well. Going with that plan, I have made it my priority to apply for scholarship priority deadlines, and private scholarships as well. While I do not know the amount we can afford, I know that I will also be helping out for paying my tuition through work programs through the university.
How are you feeling about college applications?
I'm honestly anxious and excited. I am excited to see what colleges accept me, but it's also daunting considering how new the process is for me.
What do you not know about this process that you wish you did? What would you change about the past few years to be more prepared for this?
I had insight on how my academics would go, I would have played the GPA game and taken all 5 point classes.
What is "the GPA game"?
Essentially the GPA game is taking only 5 point classes, [weighted classes that give up to 5 points on the regular 4-point scale] like it's Sociology or World Religions, for example. It gives students the chance to obtain a higher GPA, and I didn't learn about this concept until late junior year. People do not openly talk about it outright, but there are comments asking what scale a class is on. If I had known freshman year, I would not have taken Latin 1 and would have continued to take Spanish 5 as I had originally planned. Also, I have been taking Yearbook which is a 4 point class, and I have gotten B's occasionally, but I see that class as a plus because I have leadership positions so it's essentially a give and take.
My class from what I heard is one of the more competitive ones, and for the majority of the junior year, the median GPA is a 4.5. From what I remember, we had around 5 kids tied for Valedictorian, most kids have very similar GPA and fight for their rankings.
Thanks for reading! The next interview with Grace will come out in October.
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