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Monday, January 3, 2011

BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW

gerald_bradshaw@post.harvard.edu

Bradshaw College Consulting

(219) 663-3041

Dear Mr. Bradshaw:-- I am a high school student. I have a question for you. Are top colleges partial to private school students over public school students in admissions? -- A public school student

Donít rule out public schools



Dear student -- The short answer is yes, private schools tend to hold sway with top colleges. The reasons vary from school to school.

A few years ago, the Wall Street Journal studied freshmen at 80 selective colleges to find out where they went to high school. Not surprisingly, New York City private schools and New England prep schools dominated at elite colleges.

In particular, the Journal cited Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., as a "virtual factory" for sending kids to Harvard (19 in 2007) and Yale.

This trend continues, but as the report pointed out, there is increasing competition from schools overseas and public schools that focus on math and science.

The Journal found that the top 10 schools represented at elite colleges were private schools. Noteworthy is that two of the top 10 are in South Korea.

As a measure of this trend, foreign students now take up a growing number of seats in the freshman class. Typical is the University of Pennsylvania, where 13 percent of the class of 2011 is made up of foreign students, up from 11.8 percent the previous year, according the report.

As a public school student, your chances of admission increase markedly if your school specializes in math and science. Thanks perhaps in part to the tech boom for creating a high demand for science and engineering majors, their students also tend to have higher SAT scores, which pump up the rankings for a double-dip benefit.

The report cited Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a magnet public school in Alexandria, Va., for sending 14 students, or 3 percent of its graduates, to Princeton.

And often overlooked are the college counselors at private schools, for their role in helping kids get into top colleges. Counselors have spent many years developing relationships with admissions offices. Parents expect them to have insider knowledge of the admissions process, as many are graduates of elite colleges themselves and maintain close contact with their old schools.

The report also points out that many counselors at elite high schools were admission officers at elite colleges before coming to high school. They understand how important it is to know the student. If they tell a college that a certain student will attend if accepted, that can tip for scales in the students favor.

What the evidence suggests is that if you attend a highly focused public school -- one where academic rigor is given first priority -- you can compete with the best private prep schools.



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