If you are looking to go to college then you might be wondering whether or not the high school you’re going to will matter.

This post will show you a number of ways in which the high school that you go to can matter as well as a number of ways that it does not.

So, does the high school I go to matter for college? Going to a higher-ranked high school will, statistically, improve your chances of getting admitted to college. However, many students, that go to lower-ranked high schools, are also able to get into the most elite universities every year.

There are actually a number of ways in which the high school that you go to does and does not matter. Regardless, there will still be a number of factors that are directly under your control that you can use to maximize your chances of getting into a highly ranked university.

Being from a highly ranked high school can be a big advantage

It is the case that going to a highly ranked high school will give you an advantage in getting admitted to elite universities.

In a report done by the Harvard Crimson, it was found that 11% of the schools sent 32% of the students in the Harvard class of 2017 (source.) It also showed that the top ten high schools sent 6% of the students. This means that many of the students that year were from the same or similar high schools. So, going to these high schools will have improved your chances of getting admitted. There are many possible reasons that this could have been the case that will be mentioned below.

However, the data showed that 74% of the high schools sent only one student and around 50% of the students only came from one high school. This means that being from a high school that has a lower ranking does not mean that you won’t be able to get admitted.

Higher ranked schools will give you more guidance

One reason that the high school that you go to does matter is that the staff there will be able to give you better guidance. This is because they will be able to base their guidance on what successful students have done in the past when getting admitted into college.

Since the staff at lower-ranked schools won’t know as many students that got into highly selective colleges they will not be able to provide the same level of guidance. With that being said, there are large amounts of advice from reputable sources that you can find online that you can use to make up for that.

Higher ranked high schools will have more clubs

Extracurricular activities are an important factor in a college application and it is not a section that you will want to leave blank.

Another way that going to a highly ranked school can help is that it will likely have more clubs that you can join than most lower-ranked high schools.

The clubs that they will provide can include:

  • Student government
  • Academic teams and clubs
  • Debate teams
  • Music, drama, visual arts, etc
  • Culture clubs
  • Athletics
  • Student newspaper

All of these are things that can help to improve a college application. With that being said, not only feeder schools offer these clubs, so it would help to consider what clubs your own school offers and how it would help your application.

References will matter

Another reason that the high school that you go to can matter is that schools that are ranked higher will be able to give stronger letters of recommendation.

This is because a letter of recommendation from someone that has previously recommended other successful students will be more reliable. Many of the students at highly ranked schools will have gone on to do well at highly selective schools so the letters of recommendation from those schools will have more value. Whereas, at lower-ranked schools, fewer students will have gone on to highly selective universities.

Course load matters

One more reason that the high school you go to can matter for college is that different high schools have different course loads.

If you go to a high school where they have a more rigorous course load then it will improve your chances of getting admitted to a highly selective university.

With that being said, admissions committees will consider the classes that your high school offered. If you take the most demanding course load that your high school offers and do well then this will help your chances of acceptance even if you are not from a highly ranked high school.

The grades that you get are important

One major factor that will matter regardless of the high school that you go to is the grades that you obtain.

If you take a challenging coarse load and you get good grades, you do well on the SAT and SAT subject tests then it will greatly improve your chances of getting admitted.

The essay you provide matters

Another thing that will impact your chances of getting admitted to a selective college is your essay. If your essay is poor then it will reduce your chances of getting admitted by a large margin.

This is an area where the high school doesn’t matter that much. While teachers, at highly ranked schools, will be able to advise on what better admissions essays look like it is also the case that there is a lot of practical advice that you can find online.

Class rank matters just as much as the high school

Another thing to consider is that your class rank is also just as important.

If you are from a lower-tiered high school but you do really well compared to your peers then it will help to improve your chances of being admitted. This would especially be the case if you also take a heavier course load and participate in extracurricular activities as well.

Control the things under your control

Finally, while it is true that the high school that you go to will have an impact on your chances it is also true that it is not something that is in your control. Worrying about things that are not in your control will not be very helpful for your goals.

On the other hand, taking full advantage of the things that are in your control will help you to accomplish your goals. There are many students that get admitted into elite institutions every year despite being from a lower-ranked high school. If you focus on maximizing what you have going for you then you will be able to give yourself a good chance of getting admitted as well.


I created and currently manage College Corner. I received a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. My goal is to help current students do better in college and to help future students plan for college. You can read more about me and my website here.