Great question! And the truth is, yes, while every college does things differently, the admissions committee will take your high school into consideration when reviewing your application.
But that doesn't mean that coming from a so-so high school is going to prevent you from getting into a GREAT college, so don't worry!
Basically, admissions committees look at your high school to give you and your application context. And that's important because every high school is different! Some have more opportunities for students to take AP classes, for example. Some weigh their GPAs, while others don't. Some are very, very small and others are very, very big... which means being number 20 in your class can mean very different things. At some schools a 4.0 is the best GPA you can get and at others the scale is out of 10! And at some schools, GPAs don't exist!
So the admissions committee is going to look at what kind of school YOU came from and what your profile looks like in that context.
If you go to a school that offers 20 AP courses and you only take 2, they're going to look at you a bit differently than the student who took 2 AP classes at a school that only offered 2.
And if you have a 4.0 in that school that offered 20 AP courses and you coasted through your 4 years taking all easy courses, that 4.0 isn't going to look as impressive as the student who took every opportunity to challenge himself/herself at the school that only offered 2.
Does that make sense?
So no matter what school you are coming from, the admissions committees want to see students who are challenging themselves as much as they can, and taking full advantage of the opportunities available to them. You will NOT be negatively affected if your school didn't have as many opportunities available to you as the fancy private school up the street. But you WILL be negatively affected if you didn't apply yourself and push yourself as hard as possible in your personal high school environment.
What matters most is how much you know. Your knowledge is measured not only by how good your grades are, but also by how good YOU are. A good high school might let you know these two things easily. While a so-so high school will only show you what it can show. So yes, how good your high school is/were does matter, only not so directly. Colleges don't look at high school reputation, but your chances of finding a college you want may be determined by the staff at your high school and your own drive to go looking. Although I think the above posters are correct in most cases, there are certain schools that colleges will view more favorably (for their known academic rigour). Many schools in New England (Exeter, Chote, etc.), prestigious prep schools, and a handful of high schools have the name behind them to give you the upper hand over people with slightly better GPAs. However, if you go to a local private school with an acceptance rate of over 50%, you've really done nothing except indoctrinate yourself with religious views and waste a lot of money. If you're unsure about whether you're at a "prestigious" school, then you're not. I'm afraid that none of the answers, above, are correct. Let's first define what colleges you may be talking about. Depending on who's counting, only about 100 colleges and universities in the US accept less than 50% of applicants -- so, most colleges aren't very hard to get into. If you want to go to a really elite college, the strength of your high school may actually work against you. The very top schools generally want kids who graduated at or near the tops of their classes. If you are in a school with very bright kids and very tough competition, this will work against you. If you are in a school where you dominate, this will work for you. Having said that, top colleges will give you a break if your class rank is somewhat below what they'd like to see if you attended a very difficult and very competitive high school. But it's not enough of a break to make up for the difficulty of the competition. For instance, Thomas Jefferson, a magnet high school in Fairfax County, Virginia, boasts average SAT scores that closely mirror those at Harvard. Harvard does not take every student from TJ, however, and wouldn't consider doing so. Harvard does take kids from TJ who finish a bit below the highest of class rankings, however. The upshot is that kids who finish at or near the tops of their classes at TJ are almost certain to get into any school they want to attend, but those who finish outside the top 20 or so are disadvantaged.
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