College admissions are becoming more competitive each year, and seats at the top universities are becoming more sought after. As Stanford professor Mitchell Stevens puts it, “it’s not a pretty ecology overall”. Having helped thousands of students, we have a few suggestions specifically for students from San Francisco, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Cupertino, Fremont, and the surrounding areas. This advice is tailored towards Bay Area college counseling and trends we have seen.
Without further ado, let’s talk about how Bay Area college counseling can help you succeed in college.
STEM is not the only answer.
East Coast schools, Stanford, and Berkeley may be inundated with science, technology, engineering, and math students from the Bay Area, but that does not mean it is the only way to get in. Many of the students we guide have an art and humanities background, and we have found no statistical difference between applicants with the same scores and similar extracurricular profiles.
If you are applying as a STEM major from the Bay Area, it is important to really be distinguished. Events like USAMO, USACO, and science fairs can help applicants stand out. We recommend starting these in 10th grade or earlier if possible so you can get practice, and we help our students with this.
Don’t worry if you are not STEM – focus on what you like and are good at. That overlap will take you places.
Not just Stanford and the UC.
There are many other good schools in California itself (Santa Clara, Claremont schools, Pepperdine, CSU’s) that one should consider. Stanford and UC Berkeley are good schools, but not our only choices.
We often also suggest East Coast liberal arts colleges or schools like Duke and Emory that our Bay Area students have less exposure to. These are wonderful four-year research universities with competencies across subject areas.
For parents, it is a mental shift in allowing their child to leave. It is a personal decision, but we have seen so many students flourish when parents are more open about where their child goes to college. Finding them a good home for their intellectual interests and personality is very important.
School competitiveness evens out.
There are many great private schools in the Bay Area and several extremely competitive and equally rigorous public schools. In the end, regional admission counselors often know about each school and the resources they provide. Our Bay Area schools have an abundance (sometimes over-abundance) of opportunities and admissions officers know this. The solution is to choose one or two activities and really hone them. And if that is not possible, dig deep into personal experiences to find a unique story about who you are.
School selection often does not matter in the Bay Area. Your individual story, your grades, and your passion for the school are the biggest differences we see between Bay Area candidates.
Here is a list of schools we are familiar with in this area:
- GEORGE WASHINGTON HIGH SCHOOL
- BALBOA HIGH SCHOOL
- GALILEO ACADEMY
- MISSION HIGH SCHOOL
- VALLEY ACADEMY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
- RAOUL WALLENBERG TRADITIONAL HIGH SCHOOL
- CITY ARTS & TECHNOLOGY HIGH SCHOOL
- LICK-WILMERDING HIGH SCHOOL
- STUART HALL HIGH SCHOOL
- FRENCH AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL
- DREW SCHOOL
- ARCHBISHOP RIORDAN HIGH SCHOOL
- THE BAY SCHOOL OF SAN FRANCISCO
- PHILIP & SALA BURTON HIGH SCHOOL
- SACRED HEART CATHEDRAL PREPARATORY
- MERCY HIGH SCHOOL
- LOWELL HIGH SCHOOL
- JEFFERSON HIGH SCHOOL
- EL CAMINO HIGH SCHOOL
- WESTMOOR HIGH SCHOOL
- CAPUCHINO HIGH SCHOOL
- CUPERTINO HIGH SCHOOL
- HOMESTEAD HIGH SCHOOL
- MONTA VISTA HIGH SCHOOL
- FREMONT HIGH SCHOOL
- THE KING’S ACADEMY
- MOUNTAIN VIEW HIGH SCHOOL
- SAINT FRANCIS HIGH SCHOOL
- GUNN HIGH SCHOOL
- PALO ALTO HIGH SCHOOL
- KEHILLAH JEWISH HIGH SCHOOL
- EVEREST PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL
- SEQUOIA HIGH SCHOOL
- WOODSIDE HIGH SCHOOL
- MENLO-ATHERTON HIGH SCHOOL
- LAUREL SCHOOL
- CIRCLE OF INDEPENDENT LEARNING CENTER
- AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOL
- IRVINGTON HIGH SCHOOL
- JOHN F. KENNEDY HIGH SCHOOL
- MISSION SAN JOSE HIGH SCHOOL
- WASHINGTON HIGH SCHOOL
- LELAND HIGH SCHOOL
- LYNBROOK HIGH SCHOOL
- SILVER CREEK HIGH SCHOOL
- LOS ALTOS HIGH SCHOOL
Look at the big picture.
Many parents in the Bay Area know a lot about college admissions and it sometimes creates a high-pressure environment. Students and parents should keep their perspective in the process and realize it is just one step towards becoming an adult. College is very important, but having the right mindset and learning how to be resourceful in high school is as important. We often focus on these skills with our students from the Bay Area.
Bay Area college admissions are competitive. We have many resources and a lot of information. Digesting that is tough, but we hope these blog posts can start to help in Bay Area college counseling, Palo Alto college counseling, Menlo Park college counseling, Atherton college counseling, Fremont college counseling, Cupertino college counseling, and more.