Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati is a public high school for grades 7-12. Ranked one of America's Best High Schools by U.S. News, it is open to any student in Cincinnati who tests reasonably well. Walnut Hills is culturally and ethnically diverse, and some 95 percent of its graduating seniors go on to four-year colleges. We asked eight seniors to talk about applying for college.
When Matthew was in 10th grade, his dad asked him to list the schools he wanted to see on a northeastern road trip. Matthew picked six, including three Ivies. His dad suggested a seventh, Brown. "Brown was great, despite it being a rainy, cold day," Matthew said. "The admissions officer was so passionate; I was ready to sign up then." The open curriculum also appealed to him. Interested in biology or biomedical engineering, Matthew applied early decision. He got in.
GPA: 4.0 unweighted
SAT/ACT scores: 730 math, 680 critical reading, 720 writing/32 composite
Extracurrics: Club swimming, jazz combo, National Honor Society
Essay topic: For Brown, Matthew wrote two long essays, one on extracurrics and a second on moving to an inner-city school.
What helped? Academics, athletics, and arts. "I advertised myself as a well-rounded person."
The extra step: A sax player, Matthew sent Brown a highlights CD.
Aha! moments: Visiting Brown; conversely, he ruled out MIT after a visit, feeling it overemphasized mechanical engineering.
Biggest surprise: The only school that wasn't on his list was the one he chose.
Advice to 11th graders: Start early!