Getting Into College: Moving School Districts?

When you work the phones in college admissions, you get some pretty crazy calls. A favorite was from a father asking if his family should consider moving school districts to a different (“better”) high school. He was certain “my college” (his alma mater) to be among her top choices. As such, he wanted to be sure to live in a district where we had a reputation of admitting students. The kicker? His daughter was entering Kindergarten!

Conversely, and running a close second on the absurd list, was the parent of a student from a very prestigious high school. His daughter had been denied admission. He called with the comment that “if my kid had been at XYZ (nearby “weaker” school) she would have been valedictorian.”

But would she? There’s no guarantee there. You can’t assume your kid’s GPA and scores would remain consistent elsewhere.

Timing and parenting judgments aside, let’s talk about the idea of how much WHAT school someone attends might influence the review process in college admission. Does moving school districts give you a better shot of getting into the college you want?

Are Some Districts Favored?

Colleges recognize that the quality of education applicants may have received varies. Some high schools simply have more resources than others, subsequently some students have benefited from more opportunities than others. It’s not unusual for a larger percentage of students from some of the higher ranked high schools to be offered admission. This doesn’t mean, however, that it’s “easier” to get in from these schools or that colleges like these students more.

More often, it simply means that more students from that high school were pursuing a competitive college-prep curriculum. It certainly doesn’t mean that colleges are only interested in attracting students from high schools known for being “the best.” High school rankings, like college rankings, can be tricky.

Very often – regardless of which rankings you’re considering – the rank of a high school is highly correlated with the socioeconomic status of the surrounding community. And while this many mean there opportunities out the wazoo, there are many students who attend a highly ranked high school but who don’t, or aren’t able, to participate.

Make the Most of It

Conversely, there are students who attend very depressed high schools who excel and take advantage of every opportunity made available.

Colleges are typically less interested in WHAT opportunities your school afforded and more interested in WHAT YOU HAVE DONE with the given opportunities.

RELATED: How to Choose the Best College Acceptance Offer for You

For example, pulling from my past experiences on an admissions committee: The territory where I recruited and reviewed included a wide range of high school environments. Was I impressed with students at some of the most rigorous high schools? Yes, of course. Did some of them present transcripts with more AP courses than I could count and test scores nearing perfection? Yep.

But I was also equally impressed with students from some of the “weaker” high schools in my territory. They may have had fewer AP classes and lower standardized test scores, but they excelled in their environment.

The Privilege of Choice

Many families don’t enjoy the privilege of choice. If you do, great! And it’s one thing to consider location based on the type or caliber of education your child will receive. Many families would, understandably, choose to live in a district known for rigorous schools with favorable outcomes. It’s another thing altogether to make that choice based on a child’s likelihood of being admitted to any certain college.

Students from very prestigious high schools are sometimes denied admission. Students from very depressed high schools are sometimes offered admission. This is a reflection of the reality that colleges don’t make offers of admission based on the high school – they make offers of admission based on the student.

So, in the end, moving school districts probably isn’t the best use of your resources. Think about taking advantage of all the opportunities you can instead and unpack those boxes!

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