What is Behind a College Application?

How big of an impact does where students attend high school have on where they get into college?

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College prep books used by current high school students.

Children in America spend about the first 18 years of their lives preparing to go to college. On average children begin pre-school by the age of three or four. After spending two years in pre-school, children move on to Kindergarten for a year, and then on to elementary school, which lasts on average for five years. After completing these five years creating a foundation to continue learning on, children continue onto middle school. Typically middle school lasts for three years and then it is off to high school for another four years.

By the child’s senior year, or last year of high school, most are expected to take either and ACT or SAT standardized test to gauge their intelligence from the culmination of the education they have received. Children then choose colleges they would like to continue their education at after they finish high school and apply to these in the Fall of their senior year. To apply, most colleges insist the students submit their standardized test scores, their grade point average, an essay or two they write specifically for the college, recommendations, lists of the various activities and clubs they participated in, the sports they played, the groups they lead, the awards they received, and more. So, how do students get involved in and participate in all of the different groups and classes they need to in order to impress the college administration of their dreams? The answer may lie within where they attend high school.

Kelly Driscoll, Academic Services Officer II for the College of Fine, Preforming and Communication Arts at Wayne State University, says that colleges do not evaluate student’s applications to university based on the type of high school they attended. Rather she says the administration bases acceptance off of what is on the application itself.

Each year at Wayne State University, around 9,000 undergrad students are admitted, and around 2,600 ultimately elect to attend.

Driscoll says that at Wayne State, and other state colleges that are similar, the administration is most interested in the students test scores and GPA. However, Driscoll warns that all colleges evaluate student’s applications differently and have varying criteria they are looking for.

Driscoll adds that if a students test scores are on the line, Wayne State looks at the supplementary information students can add such as an essay. Driscoll says she has found that BIG 10 schools, which are on the Common App, look at the extra-curricular actives, co-curricular activates and distinctions such as community service.

From her personal experience working with students both at open houses during recruitment, and then helping guide students once enrolled at WSU, Driscoll says she feels there is a prep difference between students who attended public school and those who attended private. She feels those coming from private schools had more prep to become college ready.

Click the audio player below to hear more from Kelly Driscoll.

Below are the stories of three current high school seniors preparing to select which college they will attend in the fall. One student is from a co-ed public school, one is from a co-ed private school, and the last is from an all-girls private school. All three institutions are located in the same area and pull from the same socioeconomic group.

Co-Ed Public School: Ernest W. Seaholm High School

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Ernest W. Seaholm High School in Birmingham, Michigan.

Nicole McMaster is a senior at Ernest W. Seaholm High School, located in Birmingham, Michigan. McMaster has been attending Birmingham public schools for her entire education thus far. McMaster applied to 10 colleges this past Fall. She was accepted at universities such as the University of Michigan, Villanova, Boston College and Michigan State University.

“Seaholm offers students a large amount of different AP classes and extra-curricular clubs they can participate it,” McMaster said. “Student’s then have a lot of different things they can put on their application to make themselves stand out.”

McMaster says Seaholm offers about 16 AP classes, including AP Calculus, AP US History, AP Biology, AP Studio Art, and more. She says that her school also has about 50 different clubs that students can join, ranging in a variety of topics that include community service, student congress and the LGBT club.

Seaholm students take five classes a day and on average McMaster said there are about 30 students in each class.

“Seaholm offered classes to help students do well on their standardized tests too,” McMaster said. “We had ACT classes and workshops to learn how to write college applications.”

There are around 350 students 2017 graduating class.

Click on the video below to hear more from Seaholm student Nicole McMaster.

Co-Ed Private School: Cranbrook Kingswood

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Cranbrook Kingswood in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Cranbrook began college counseling meetings during my junior year, and they allowed me to get a head start,” Michael Mclaughlan, senior at Cranbrook said. “I was able to complete my major essays before my senior year, and knew exactly where I was applying very early on.”

Mclaughlan applied to nine universities and was accepted at seven. He has committed to attend the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business this Fall.

“The main factor that helped me prepare for college was Cranbrook’s academic atmosphere, which allowed me to achieve high standards,” Mclaughlan said. “Cranbrook is a preparatory school and its entire focus is high achievement to gain admission into competitive schools, so the entire atmosphere prepared me.”

Mclaughlan said there are between 15 and 20 AP classes offered by Cranbrook and an extensive number of clubs and sports.

“Cranbrook has just about every sport and has its own hockey rink and pool,” Mclaughlan said.

Mclaughlan said he will be graduating with 205 other students, but in his daily classes, the class size is about 17.

“Cranbrook could have narrowed my college list to a fewer schools,” Mclaughlan said when thinking about what Cranbrook could improve upon. “They insist you apply to a lot and push schools you really have no interest in.”

 All Girls Private School: The Academy of the Sacred Heart

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The Academy of the Sacred Heart, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Avery Henderson is a senior and the All School Representative at the Academy of the Scared Heart, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Henderson applied to 12 universities and was accepted at eight.

“Sacred Heart offers students three AP courses which are AP Literature, AP US History, and AP Calculus,” Henderson said. “But we also have groups like Student Committee Governance, HEALTH club, preform groups, sports teams and others that students can join.”

Henderson said there are 28 students in her graduating class.

“A unique aspect of Scared Heart is that is offers Project Term,” Henderson said. “The school puts together different trips, or learning experiences, that the students go on for a week and a half in March.”

Henderson said that by the time of graduation, students will have needed to complete a Project Term centered around service, one around career exploration, and one around personal growth.

“Project Term can be local or across the world,” Henderson said. “This past March I did service in Nicaragua, but some groups have gone to the Amazon, Budapest and Ireland.”

Henderson said that Sacred Heart could have improved their program for getting students ready to apply for college by not pushing back the deadlines they need things to be in by and making the process harder for students.

“I had to hire a separate college counselor because mine didn’t help me with the process at all,” Henderson said.

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The Academy of the Sacred Heart in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Map of high schools and colleges in the Detroit area:

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