Preparing for College Admissions When You Change Schools
By Kayon, IvyWise College Admissions Counselor
You have it down to a science — you know the best way to get up to speed on class schedules and which clubs to join. Or perhaps this is your first time moving and you’re a little nervous about attending a new school. From a personal perspective, you have so much to consider.
In college admissions, the goal of any good review is to read each applicant holistically. That means your move could be a significant part of your story. If you have changed schools during high school, perhaps multiple times, I want to share some things for you to consider about your application and ways to mitigate the effects of a variable evaluation process.
Maintaining a strong academic curriculum is one of the most significant considerations when moving to a new school. A change in school may mean changing your curriculum, especially if you move internationally. You may move from a national curriculum to an IB- or AP-based set of coursework.
Before moving, look at the available courses to ensure you will have access to the courses you’re excited to take throughout your high school career, not just your first year at the new school. Next, you will want to connect with your school counselor to ensure you are placed at the correct level in all your courses.
Ask about the placement process. Is there a placement test process? Are there limits on how many advanced courses new students can take? Will all your previous credits be accepted and used toward graduation requirements? You want to ensure you stay on track academically, so these are all important questions to ask.
Moving outside of the United States? You will also need to learn the requirements for admission to U.S. institutions for international applicants or U.S. citizens living abroad.
There is so much to learn from a list of extracurriculars. Admissions officers like to look at what you do that supports your academic interests and/or provides leadership and teamwork experience. They also look at your longevity in those activities and what you like to do for fun.
A move will potentially affect your tenure in each club, so you will want to join clubs you are excited about as soon as you get to your new school. Suppose you were previously a member of a club with multiple chapters like FIRST Robotics or Future Business Leaders of America. In that case, you can easily integrate into that activity.
Do not shy away from getting involved. Schools will look to see how you adapt to a new environment as they try to paint a picture of how you will engage once you’re on their campus. As an additional benefit, club engagement will help you socially integrate into your new environment more easily. Demonstrating your ability to enter new spaces and build connections will positively impact an admissions office’s view of your ability to build community in college.
Letters of Recommendation
If you are moving later in your high school career, you may only know your teachers for a short time. Throughout the year, try to use time in class to speak up, connect with teachers during after-school club meetings, or connect with them outside of class for additional academic support. For instance, if the new move has impacted your schoolwork and you struggle in calculus, this would be an excellent opportunity to seek out your math teacher and show them you are a dedicated student willing to ask for help when needed.
Also remember, colleges want to see letters of recommendation from recent teachers. It’s important to get to know your teachers as best you can — and to let them get to know you! — to secure impactful letters when it comes time to apply.
If you don’t have time, or if other factors affect your ability to connect with your new teachers, you can ask teachers from your previous school to prepare your letters of recommendation. Unless the reason for this choice is explained, however, the admissions office may potentially view your inability to secure letters from your current teacher negatively. More recent information is preferred during the application process, especially if you show you can enter a new space and make an impact in a limited time.
Another element of moving is how it impacts your personal life. Are you a military dependent and move often? Does your parent or guardian serve as a foreign diplomat? You can utilize the written pieces in your application to discuss how that background or identity and the various locations you’ve been to have impacted you and helped shape you into the person you are today.
If you are comfortable doing so, you can share the reason for your move and any changes in culture, geography, etc., you are now navigating in your application. Your move is an opportunity to discuss the changes in your daily life experience and how that impacted how you move through your academic and personal life.
A move can mean the beginning of an exciting new chapter of your life! The college admission process is focused on reviewing your application holistically, so it is important to tell your story. Be sure to answer any potential questions the admissions office may have. The key to doing so involves ample preparation to ensure a smooth transition academically and engaging in your new community. If you need extra guidance, consider working with an IvyWise Counselor who will help you craft a compelling story that stands out.