2 years ago
Admissions Advice

How to better prepare in high school to higher the chance of getting into a prestigious college?

I am a sophomore this year and I live in a small town with a small school that does not have a lot of opportunities, no ap, no ib, no honors, no school team that has anything to do with debate, or any nation wide competitions. How am I suppose to make opportunities for myself and higher the chance of getting an offer from a high prestige (top 20 nation wide schools)

@Rebecca23502 years ago

This is kind of the same thing for me at my school we have very little things that we can do to achieve a higher education.

[🎤 AUTHOR]@ssy03052 years ago

YES... I am actually a new student at my school so I knew it was gonna be small but I did not realize this small with no involvement in any nationwide academic except for like one, which is quiz bowl, so I am a little worried cause my ideal college are one of the tops.

Earn karma by helping others:

1 karma for each ⬆️ upvote on your answer, and 20 karma if your answer is marked accepted.

2 answers

Accepted Answer
2 years ago

Hi @ssy0305

Thanks for your question. I think there are actually a lot of HS seniors in the same boat, especially if you are applying as an international student from countries like India where you may have little opportunity to do impressive ECs, sports, and course rigor.

I have a completely different take on the problem and will offer a different alternative solution to volunteering. I personally do not believe logging lots of volunteering hours is impressive to any prestigious college. Why? Because the best colleges in the US all want future leaders who will be successful in leading not following. They want self-starters that create something larger than themselves, those who dream big and challenge themselves. If you are a leader in your community like starting a non-profit or serving on a board or holding an elected position, then that is 10X better than volunteering and logging hours. So I disagree with this strategy.

Your academic narrative will trump your EC narrative in terms of importance to a college applications reader. Your grades, course rigor, test scores, and intellectual vitality/curiosity are far more important that your ability to play sports or do club activities.

So what I recommend doing is first talking to your HS counselor and asking them if you can be permitted to enroll in your community college to take something called Dual Enrollment courses. You should first research the list of College Board APs available (I think there are like 35 of them) and see if there are similar classes at the college level that you can enroll in. Hopefully, this is 1 possibility.

If that doesn't work, then I would try to enroll in online AP courses concurrently with your high school terms. And also, if you are not working in the summer, you can do that as well. There are plenty of high schools and colleges that offer AP courses. UC SC offers a program of AP classes to HS students and it's quite reasonable in cost per course.


Lastly, you can always enroll in college-level courses like outlier.org.


They have about 19 core college courses like College Algebra, Pre-Calc, Calculus, Psychology, Micro-Economics, Macro-Economics, Statistics, Sociology, Astronomy, Philosophy, and Computer Science

I have taken 2 of these and they are all self-paced, self-learning college-level courses. You have quizzes, mid-term, and a final exam which is proctored through your laptop camera. The backend is managed through the University of Pittsburgh and if you get a passing grade of C or better, you receive a transcript with UPitt college credit. If you do not pass, you will get a full refund of your fee. These are $400 which is like 5-10 times more affordable than taking a college class. Colleges will accept UPitt college credits so that to me is more valuable than taking an AP class and having to score a 5 on an AP test just to find out that the college might not accept AP credit or that particular AP course.

I personally would focus on propping up your academics and showing colleges that you have a love of learning regardless of your personal circumstances or where you live.

So while you may or may not be the kind of applicant colleges want because of your rural location, keep in mind, that you have to show them that you can thrive and challenge yourself intellectually. Volunteering is not a good replacement for having zero course rigor.

Next, start to test prep for the ACT or SAT. It's never too soon so start becoming familiar with these very important tests. When you don't have a lot of course rigor, submitting a very high SAT or ACT will improve your chances of someone who reads your file giving you a chance.

Again, I don't know everything but I do know that logging hundreds of volunteering hours is vastly overrated in the college admissions process. You are not applying to a monastery or convent but trying to get into a prestigious college that is filled to maximum capacity with walking encyclopedias oozing with talent every which way you can possibly think of.

Good luck.

2 years ago

I'm sorry that your school doesn't have very many opportunities. However, there are other ways you can demonstrate your dedication. Not only would it be good to volunteer, you should also look into starting some sort of volunteer organization. Try to get other people involved in it too. By starting something, you're showing that you can take initiative, you care about the community, and you have strong leadership skills.

I would also take @PAVL0VE's advice to look into online AP/IB courses if they're available, as it shows your initiative and desire to learn.

As long as you try your best and make the most of what you have, I'm sure you'll do great! I wish you the best of luck.

What are your chances of acceptance?
Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
+ add school
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

Community Guidelines

To keep this community safe and supportive:

  1. Be kind and respectful!
  2. Keep posts relevant to college admissions and high school.
  3. Don’t ask “chance-me” questions. Use CollegeVine’s chancing instead!

How karma works