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Five Tips for Students Moving or Switching High Schools

Just this week, our sitter told us she was moving. Her mom got a big promotion at work which will move the family 1300 miles away. The timing is not ideal. Our sitter is just about to start her senior year of high school.

I told her that no matter how many miles away, this shouldn’t negatively affect her college prospects. But it’s a big deal that she is starting a new high school right before she sends off her college applications. The fact that she is a strong self-advocate for herself will help as she navigates a new school, a brand new guidance counselor and making friends at a time when most students are settling in for the ride of senior year.

She is not alone. Over 40 million Americans move every year, and most of them will do it over the summertime. In addition, millions of students transfer high schools within the same community for better academic, social, and extracurricular opportunities. Changing schools can have a significant effect on curriculum, tracking, and activities no matter what age the kids are, but high school students are further influenced as colleges pay attention to trends, consistency, and impact both in and out of the classroom.

Here are some important tips for college-bound students who find themselves moving or switching high schools:

1. Reach out to the guidance counselor or college counselor at the new school.

If the high school doesn’t have counselors, befriend the guidance department secretary, registrar, or even the principal. These individuals will be your biggest advocates in the transition and the application process. They fill out the forms, send the transcripts, and ensure the colleges understand the situation.

2. Remember that colleges will need all high school transcripts–from the old high school and the new high school.

In some cases, the new high school will combine everything on one transcript. Other schools will want to send two separate transcripts to colleges. It is up to the student to ensure that the old school sends the transcript to the new school. Insist that the old school send along a profile with the transcript. If the college has any questions about the old school, they can rely on the profile to explain the curriculum, grading system, and demographics of the student body.

3. Curricula rarely match up perfectly from school to school.

Families should carefully review the course options in advance of the move to ensure that the student’s curriculum stays as consistent as possible from one school to the next.

4. One of the best ways to meet new friends and begin to make in-roads, is getting involved.

Seek out familiar clubs, teams, and hobbies to show consistency throughout the transition. If the new school doesn’t offer something you used to do, be creative. Students can breathe new life into school offerings by founding clubs and organizations that their old school once offered. This shows leadership skills and the qualities of a trailblazer – which colleges love.

5. Be willing to share your story.

College admissions officers are incredibly understanding of situations that our out of a student’s control. Moving is one of them. But they need to know the details and circumstances to be able to advocate for you when questions come up about academic and extracurricular changes. Open up to school personnel who will be writing the letters of recommendation and potentially answering questions about your candidacy.

Essays about changing high schools are hard to pull off in a novel way. Yet most applications provide space for students to elaborate on anything important to them. The Common Application offers an “Additional Information” section which allows a student to speak directly to the colleges about anything that needs further explanation.

Switching high schools presents a host of challenges for a student applying to college. But a student who anticipates the changes can dictate the course of their college admissions process. There are aspects of the move that force the student to adapt. However, the core qualities and special talents a student brings with them to a new community should be shared and celebrated. The self-actualizing student has the power to make an impact on a new community even in a short period of time.

Photo by Sam Balye on Unsplash.