Rafael Torres is a 2012 School Reform Blogging Fellow for RI-CAN.

In my last blog, I talked about visiting Boston College with my leadership group and the amazing things that happened throughout the trip. I loved it, and could even see myself going there. The only problem is I don’t have a very good shot of getting in.

Getting into a prestigious school like Boston College isn’t impossible – I’ve learned throughout my journey that nothing is – but the fact that I come from a low-performing school will make it very hard.

It’s no secret that colleges like Boston College look for students that excel academically and socially. They want to see excellent grades and strong community involvement – and being a star athlete doesn’t hurt either. Maybe the lesser-known fact is that excellent grades and resumes count for more if they’re achieved at a school with a strong academic reputation. Getting straight As from a low-performing school like mine isn’t considered as impressive because people assume it’s easier to get straight As at a low-performing school than at a high-performing one.

Aside from my school’s reputation, its lack of Advanced Placement and honors classes also puts me at a disadvantage. Colleges want to know that the student they’re accepting can actually handle the work—and students demonstrate that they can by succeeding in high-level AP classes. But because my school doesn’t offer many AP classes, I don’t have as much of an opportunity to “prove” that I’d succeed at a school like Boston College.

I have an A- average. I am deeply involved in my community, from volunteering at the local library to interning for Senator Pichardo at the State House. I also debate, play soccer and serve as editor-in-chief of my school’s newspaper. But in spite of all that, Boston College will think hard about sending me an acceptance letter because of where I go to school.

A lot of people tell students who are doing well at Alvarez that they should try to test into Classical High School, Providence’s highest-performing high school. And it’s true, Classical and its impressive reputation has more to offer students than Alvarez. But If we constantly send our best students to Classical, we perpetuate the idea that our school can only be low-performing, making it harder for the students who stay to succeed.

I believe every student deserves is a fair shot at going to the college of their dreams. High schools—especially ones like mine–must do whatever they can to help their students compete in the race for the top college slots. By offering a range of AP courses, emphasizing to students that college is reachable and offering programs that help keep students interested and engaged, they will help college admission officers focus less on where a student comes from and more on where they’re going.

Rafael Torres is a 2012 School Reform Blogging Fellow for RI-CAN. Rafael is a sophomore at Dr. Jorge Alvarez High School in Providence. To feed his love of journalism and politics Rafael serves as the editor-in-chief of his school newspaper, interns for Senator Juan M. Pichardo, is co-captain of the Alvarez debate team and was recently nominated to be the school’s Hugh O’Brian Youth Ambassador.


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