You may have seen various local news sources in your area boast when a particular high school ranks well for the area, state, or even country. It can be difficult to know if you should take these rankings seriously though. After all, some question whether or not college rankings even matter, so why would the ranking of a high school matter?
High school rankings do and don’t matter at the same time. A high school does send information regarding their school when they send your transcripts to a college. Therefore, colleges do know how your high school holds up against others. Furthermore, it’s pretty easy to look up the rankings of a high school, and a college admissions office may or may not take the time to do that. So the information is certainly available - but what do colleges do with it? Think about these factors when asking if the ranking of a high school matters.
Why does it matter?
All school rankings - be it high school, college, or graduate school rankings - are evaluated in a similar fashion. Therefore, even if your high school’s ranking doesn’t affect your chances of getting into college, it can be worth noting what goes into ranking a school. That way, you’ll know what to look for in college rankings later on.
If you attend a particularly difficult high school, a college admissions office will consider this when looking at your transcript and your GPA. An A- at a tough high school may be considered just as valuable as an A+ at a different high school.
Demanding course load
If your high school has options for a more demanding course load and you choose not to pursue it, this could hurt your chances of admission. Similarly, if you attend a school that has limited options for a demanding course load, but you still make every attempt to challenge yourself academically, a college will notice.
The challenges of college
You may be better prepared to attend a top college if you went to a top high school. You won’t be a big fish in a small pond, and a college may consider you well-prepared for the challenges ahead. Furthermore, having a peer group and teachers who (theoretically) take school work more seriously can encourage you to take it more seriously.
Why does it not matter?
The reasons high school rankings matter are more specific, but the reasons they do not matter are more general. Above all else, a lot of things matter more come college application time than what high school you went to. Grades, extracurriculars, essays, test scores - these all come first on a college application.
Furthermore, a college admissions office is going to consider your application against what was available to you, so not having certain AP classes as an option will not necessarily hurt you. Similarly, some specialists argue that there’s no good standard for comparing high schools against each other. And ultimately, you’re not going to know if you get an admissions officer viewing your application who believes in high school rankings or not.
And finally, networking doesn’t work the same way from high school as it does for college. In other words, college connections can lead to a good job, or admission to a certain graduate school. As a result, networking opportunities can affect the ranking of a college. Such connections aren’t as readily made in high school, and therefore aren’t generally considered when ranking high schools.
What matters most in the end is balance and success, just like it does when considering the prestige of a college. A high school with a good ranking won’t save you from a bad application, and vice versa. Just like college, if you attend a high school that will serve you well and you make the most of it, you’ll be just fine.