Will applying from a rural town affect my chances at getting into a top school?
I know all about the "holistic admissions" but please tell me straight if I am at a disadvantage. My school does not offer a plethora of opportunities. There is no way for me to compete nationally or earn many awards, and I might have one leadership position next year. How will colleges KNOW that? They see your location, student population, etc. but how will they knew I did as much as my school offered me. There are also four guidance counselors in my whole school of 1,600 so recommendations will not be too personalized. I feel so inferior to students who live in cities and can start clubs of their interests because there are so many people with those same interests, or become involved in research because there is a university near, or compete in really cool events. I am sorry if I sound whiny; I am just upset and jealous lol.
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It's tough to give you a concrete answer for how colleges will look at you. Applying from a rural town shouldn't affect your chances but it's possible it might. However, the same can be said for someone applying from a big city. Let me explain.
Colleges look at your high school years in context. Your high school has something called a school profile which is sent to colleges you apply to. You probably can find your school profile with a quick google search to see what they look like. Typically this profile will cover things like the community the school is in, basic facts about your school (when it was founded, grades taught, number of students, accreditation, etc), the curriculum, grades and class rankings, standardized test results, colleges that students have been accepted to in the past, etc. This gives colleges a good sense of where you stand in relation to others from your school but also lets them have an idea of what was available to you and what you ended up doing. Schools will recognize that you had more limited opportunities and evaluate accordingly. They understand it's not fair to compare someone who went to a highschool of 100 students and had no AP classes to someone who went to a high school of 2,000 and had 18+ AP classes to choice from, IB curriculum, and 100s of clubs.
Colleges also love a diverse class. Part of that diversity comes from accepting students from different parts of the country and world. It's not a huge aspect of a school's diversity but it plays a part. Sometimes being from a rural town can be helpful, especially if the schools you apply to normally don't get applications from around you. Students from big cities might face the opposite problem. A school might get so many applications from a specific school or region that kids applying from those regions might be accepted at a lesser rate.
I completely understand your frustration but know colleges do everything in their power to make up for the differences in peoples' opportunities. The most helpful things you can do for yourself is to take the most challenging classes offered to you (while still maintaining good grades), utilize the internet to find opportunities for ECs and competitions, try to improve your school so other students don't feel like you do. You can still make a club even if only a handful of people join, maybe there are initiatives you care about you can start, fundraise for things in your community. It might be a bit more work than if you came from a big city but you can definitely still stand out coming from a small rural school. Don't lose hope.
I'm in the same boat with you. My town is so tiny, less than 200 people, that there are no EC's available unless your into farming. For awhile, I was going into the city, which was like a two hour drive, not super fun, but like @haynesjefferson said, there's lot's of opportunities online, so thats what I've been doing.
It's all good to be having these feelings of jealousy because honestly life isn't very fair at all and some people are simply more privileged than others.
I think colleges for the most part are looking for someone who can tell a good story so if you can find something about yourself that is truly unique and genuine you outweigh students who load tons of ECs onto themselves but truly have no flair of passion.
Equally, assuming you have internet there is a plethora of opportunities you can do bypassing your school such as social media or online competitions where you can really show your passion.
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