Student Life

How to Aim High as a Student at a Rural High School

College admissions advice isn’t one size fits all.

Student Contributor, Piper Megellas

February 10, 2022

Do you find yourself struggling to find advice as a student who attends a small or rural high school? If so, here are a few ways you can still achieve your full potential and get into your dream school.
How to Aim High as a Student at a Rural High School
The internet can be a great resource for learning how to compete with other students across the nation - and world - for competitive college admissions. But let’s be honest, not every article is made for every kind of student. Take AP or IB classes. Get involved with lots of clubs. Reach out to professors at a local university. Does this advice sound familiar to you? It’s all great advice, but unfortunately, for many students these things might be a little more difficult, because not every school offers the same opportunities. Regardless, don’t feel frustrated! There are lots of things you can do to compete, even if your school does not offer as many opportunities as you’d like. Here are some ideas.

If your school offers few or no AP or IB courses

1. Take the hardest courses offered to you at your school. These classes might be a couple AP of classes, dual enrollment, or honors. The colleges you apply to will take into consideration the size of your school and what classes are available. Most schools will advise students to take the most rigorous classwork they can, and this is precisely what you should do. 2. Consider taking a class at a local community college or university. If you have a local college or community college, you could collaborate with your high school to take courses there, or you could just take them on your own time. Reaching out to take these classes will also show the admissions team that you are dedicated to taking difficult courses, even if it takes more effort on your part.
3. Self-Study for AP exams. This one also requires some initiative but can have great payoff if you’re dedicated. Your school might not offer AP classes, but if schools within driving distance of yours do, you can study for an AP exam and take it at that school. If this is the path you choose, make sure to contact the schools in question early into the first semester to make sure that they can order you a test book. Keep in mind, not all schools allow students enrolled elsewhere to take AP exams at their locations. Additionally, you need to consider which test you decide to take -- not every AP exam is equally suited for self-study. Once you have your test scheduled, it’s time to get to work! Make sure that you come up with a sustainable schedule, and find test resources like online tests, study books, and guides that explain the layout of the course. Study hard, and hopefully you’ll get a five when test day rolls around. Either way, this shows great initiative and dedication to admissions teams, so it’s a great option.

If your school does not have many extracurricular activities that interest you…

1. Start your own club or group Most schools have protocol for students starting their own clubs or groups. If you can find other students that have the same interests as you, band together to create your own club. As long as you can find a faculty sponsor, you should be good to go. Being the founder of a club shows that you know your interests and aren’t afraid to chase after them, so you definitely shouldn’t discount it as a legitimate option. If starting it through your school is proving to be a struggle, try making it a community club and opening it to members of the community at large. As long as you can find a meeting place - whether that’s someone's home, a library, a coffee shop, or any other location - you should be on the road to success. 2. Pursue extracurriculars outside of school. These extracurriculars could be in-person or online. You could join a community club or club sport in a nearby city or town, or you could look for online activities. With the rise of COVID-19, there have been many more online opportunities for high school. This could be a club, society, interest group, or something else entirely. When you start to look around, you’ll discover there are so many extracurriculars you can pursue from a remote location. 3. Try individual extracurricular activities. Some of us have the tendency to conflate an extracurricular activity with a group, club, or team. But things you do alone are still extracurricular activities. It is important to show teamwork in your application, but not every activity you are involved with has to do this. You could write a novel or poetry book, learn to crochet or knit, draw, do yoga, or a nearly infinite number of other hobbies. Expand on these by getting recognition. Maybe you publish a book, help organize a convention, have a large social media presence, or are the moderator of an online forum. Practically any individual hobby can be expanded into something larger than it is, so don’t be afraid to look at what you have now and how it could be exponentially more impressive to college admissions teams. Of course, make sure that you’re also paying attention to all other aspects of your application! These things can be time-consuming, but it is vital to make sure you have strong test scores, essays, and letters of recommendation. Lucky for you, it may be easier to obtain detailed letters because rural students often have closer relationships with their teachers due to smaller class sizes! After all, growing up in a smaller school district isn’t all bad. Just put out a good effort, and you’ll find that opportunities are within your reach.

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