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• 05/18/2020 at 11:14AM

What to expect as a student from a low income school that has never had anyone go to the Ivy League?

My school is located in a low income area and the majority of students are on free or reduced lunch. There are around 500-600 students to a counselor. My school has never had anyone go to the Ivy League before. In 2015 one student got into Stanford and a couple years later one student got into Duke but other than that nobody has gone anywhere great. Most students stay in Florida because of the bright futures scholarship. The average SAT is below 1000 at my school and my school is often seen as a "rough" school. I love my school and it offers a lot of AP/college level classes (more than any other school in the county except maybe the IB school). I was just wondering how this affects my application? I know there are a few high schools around the country where the Ivy League is normal and maybe even an expectation. Because no one from my school has gotten into an Ivy, I'm starting to wonder if it's even possible at my school? Do colleges favor students from those high schools where Ivy acceptance is normal? My counselors don't know about applying to the Ivy League because no one has done it, so are there any tips you could give me? Is there anything I should know about the application process?

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2 answers

• 05/18/2020 at 04:45PM

While my school was about 20 minutes away from Penn and usually got 1-2 students in there each year, it was pretty similar to the other things you're mentioning (low income, low average scores, majority on free/reduced lunch, one counselor for hundreds of students, "rough" reputation, but offering a lot of AP and college level courses), so figuratively speaking I know where you're coming from. It's by no means impossible to get into an Ivy (or something similar) from that kind of school, but the reality is that you will have to work harder than people in a lot of other schools, especially wealthier ones. Both because you may not have the same opportunities afforded to students at schools that act as "feeders" for Ivies and because you'll have to do most of the legwork yourself, because your counselors may not be able to help you in the ways that more connected ones do. I still distinctly remember getting to know people at my college for the first time, hearing about their high school experiences, and realizing just how much easier it had been for them to reach the same place.

First things first for that, you'll have to make sure that you're proactive in getting together things like your teacher recommendations, counselor recommendation, and transcripts. If your counselors are seeing 600 students apiece, you might need to set up a cadence of meeting with them individually whenever you can to build a rapport. Just make sure they know you so that they can effectively submit their recommendation, which is important for putting you in context with the other people at your school.

Beyond that, take as rigorous a schedule as you can manage, because whatever the opportunities at your school are like, colleges want to see you taking advantage of them. Same goes for extracurriculars—do what is available to you, and whatever is connected to the things you want to study. Aim to have some leadership if you can, and if there's not much you can do at your school, look for things to do outside of it. Across all of that, try to build up and demonstrate some kind of cohesive interest or passion; it could literally be anything, as long as you're able to show that you can commit to an area of interest and develop it independently through the classes you take and the things you do in your free time. And do test prep—strong test scores, if you can manage them, will make sure you can get your foot in the door for these schools.

Finally—apply to a bunch. It will take a lot of time and effort, but all of these schools are so hard to get into that anyone applying to them really needs to apply to several for the best possible shot. Pick the ones you like (whether that's Ivies or other similar schools like Stanford, Rice, Duke, Vanderbilt, etc.), and apply to as many as you have time for. If you're in Florida, you have basically the best target option imaginable in the University of Florida, which is an incredibly good and incredibly inexpensive public school for FL residents, as well as good safeties in the other Florida state system schools, so you're in a good position to dedicate most of your time to reach schools.

Hope this all helps—let me know if you have any questions.

Accepted Answer
@DebaterMAX05/18/2020 at 10:31PM

In regards to the counselor recendation it might be better to use a teacher you have an ideal scenario would be your junior year homeroom teacher who also teaches your subject area. Example Math teacher your homeroom teacher and you want to go into business. If that's not possible ask a teacher who you had both semesters in a core class area. And a coach rec letter can help too.

05/18/2020 at 10:42PM

It's not possible to substitute the counselor rec with a teacher rec for most (if not all) colleges. It's typically a required part of the application and is a bit different from a regular rec letter—it's more a survey that a counselor fills out to explain how this student fits into the environment at that school.

@MJV51405/18/2020 at 11:41PM

Ah I was understanding it as a formal business letter but then I’m looking at public schools

05/19/2020 at 12:52AM

This applies to public schools too. Normal teacher recs are like indeed pretty much business letters, but counselor recs are their own unique thing. (Some more regional public schools won't require recs at all, but that has more to do with the reach of the school than whether or not it's public)

@MJV51405/19/2020 at 01:28AM

I’m looking at Midwest ones and nothing about application says a counselor rec is required and if a rev is optional it says rec not counselor rev. So I just don’t know.

05/19/2020 at 01:51AM

Here's UMich's requirements as an example: Here they call it a "school report" (that's what the Common App calls it).

Like I said above, more regional schools (ones that don't draw many applicants from outside their states or general area) might not require it. You might be looking at those. But that doesn't really have anything to do with public/private.

05/19/2020 at 01:54AM

Anyway, here's a quick and easy list from last year: You'll see there are plenty of public schools that require them and plenty of private schools that don't—it's more about how large/small the school's individual footprint is.

• 05/18/2020 at 04:12PM

I go to a very similar school although we have had a few Ivy League admits. I don't think it's held against you in any way. As long as you take advantage of the AP courses offered and you test well, no colleges will reject you based on academics. Really it's just your EC's that will come into play. You should reach out to the students that got into Stanford and Duke if you can to see if they have good advice for you.