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Opinion: Does It Matter Where You Went To High School?

I was overwhelmed with the kind of responses I received when I posted this question on our social networking platforms; and it turns out this is a question that has been on the minds of people across all ages, groups and backgrounds. I prefer this to be a discussion as much as possible, so I would first share about ten of the responses I received on a social media survey:

_mz.kora: I think it matters. Going to a good school puts you in the right path of attending a good college👍

martinteyi: No because if u work hard you will meet those students who went to A class schools in the same university.

_.mr.woman: No it’s your determination to use the resources available to you that matters😊

affulamma: You can be whatever you want to be if only you are determined and not rely on only teachers or resources in school but others out of school🔥🔥

bwoy_berry88: No dear it depends on your hard working 🙌🙌😍

aben.a87: No. It matters about how you will pass your WASSCE and go to uni.😎😎

barbly.ox: It does matter sometimes

enochtettehabc627: I don’t think so, but we shouldn’t put our attention on big schools then leaving the middle class beside. I am happy to be a student of great K.A.S.H.T.S

gents.of.aquinas: A big “NO”

brah_kesout: Well it does because people in good schools get attention more than the others

Pentecost Senior High School

From the above sample responses, we just considered it is very clear that opinions indeed do vary, especially on such a controversial topic. But why is this question really important and controversial at the same time to say the least? One word: Grading! You might remember how you had to choose the high schools you would attend some days before you wrote the Basic Education Certificate Examination(BECE), and how you had to select schools according to how they were graded by the Ghana Education Service. From Category A to Category C, and then those who preferred the technical and vocational side would choose the schools they wanted as well. Well, that is where whole hullabaloo comes from. But also remember that grading system has a basis. From infrastructure through annual WASSCE performance to other factors the authority based on. And as you may be aware, it is revised every year.

That grading system, alongside its elements within, including individual school’s alumni networking creates that sort of healthy pride and rivalry among high schools in the country, and mostly, the so-called ‘big schools’, which I prefer to call category A schools have their voices on top, and in a time where the same category A schools have in the past produced most (not all) of the prominent personalities in all spheres of the community, that voice is huge. Notwithstanding the fact that most of these A schools were established earlier as well.

So with these thoughts in mind, let’s discuss the all-important question here; ‘Does it really matter what high school you attend? Does it determine the steps you take after school? Does it have any impact on future endeavors? Well this is not a question you could answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to but rather a matter of circumstance! Why?

First, the high school you attend or attended does not ultimately matter. It is what you do with the opportunities, educational and otherwise, available to you that matters most. Selection into university does not hinge on what particular high school you attended, and with technology and internet, you are privy to all online resources as much as any high school student out there.

The reasons high school rankings matter are more specific, but the reasons they do not matter are more general. Yes, the high school you go to matters, but maybe not the way you’re thinking. Most universities don’t look at which high school you went to. They’re paying more attention to your grades and what classes you took

The real difference that a high school can make is in how good the teachers and staff are, and how many opportunities they offer you at the high school itself. An ideal school will have more clubs and after-school activities for you to engage in, better teachers, more advanced classes offered, more support for struggling students, more assistance in the university application process, and so on.

All that said, the biggest determinant of what you get into and how well you do is YOU. You have the power to work hard, do well in your classes, seek out opportunities, and make the best possible use of the resources that are available to you.

Universities pay attention to where a student attends high school. However, it’s not in the way that one would think. The high school a student attends provides a framework to help the admission board understand the student’s application rather than dictate an admissions decision.

A student’s high school is neither a limitation nor a benefit in an admission process. It should be a shaping experience that adds texture to an otherwise formal review process. In other words, your high school doesn’t get you into university anymore—you do.

A student coming from a category A high school might have stronger results on average or more detailed letters of recommendation, but the student needs to prove in other ways that underneath the polish, there is an authentic individual who didn’t take those opportunities for granted. A student coming from a school with fewer resources needs to demonstrate that any lack of polish in the application does not inhibit their ability to succeed in school.

You might have observed that in past times, many freshmen spot at the universities were allotted to students coming from a small number of elite high schools in the country. Although the “best high schools” still have strong matriculation lists, they don’t look like the lists from 20 or 30 years ago. And, some of the “other” high schools may be experiencing a slight windfall where their matriculation lists are now dotted with a few more elite institutions. The fact is that there are good kids everywhere, and elite institutions are trying to find them in likely and unlikely places. One thing is for sure. It’s not where you go to high school, it’s what you do while you are there. High school should never dictate the rest of a student’s life. It’s really just the beginning. If high school is the pinnacle, then what’s left? If high school is the nadir, just imagine what’s next.

What matters most in the end is balance and success, just like it does when considering the prestige of a university. A high school with a good ranking won’t save you from a bad application, and vice versa. Just like college, if you attend a high school that will serve you well and you make the most of it, you’ll be just fine. 

As for career and major ideas, look at your strengths and desires. What classes do you do best in? What are your favorite hobbies? What are you better at than your friends? Do you want to live in a specific place or a certain type of place? Do you make friends and get along with other people easily? Do you enjoy group projects? Do you have a passion about a specific topic? Do you have a desire to make the world a better place in some particular way? Start thinking about the answers to those kinds of questions, then start asking what majors and career paths fit best with your answers. Then start making your way through no matter which high school you are coming from.

Takoradi Senior High School

As a member of the editorial board of High School Magazine, I have the privilege and opportunity to associate with fellow high school students from many other schools across the country and trust me when I say there are good kids everywhere.

Talking of resources, make use of them. And who said everything is even learnt in school? There are so many things not taught in the classroom, the more reason why the high school should not determine what you become. Associate with students from other schools, do not live in a fantasy world where you think the so-called elite schools produce the best. No! Connect, build a network, study online, there are loads you can do than juts texting. Find your niche, connect with a career counselor, join good groups and trust me, only a fringe of your high school matter.

So whist the school you go to matters because that is where you are and should be proud of it because it will not determine what you will become, but rather you can make a change and take advantage of whatever opportunities presented there, remember that it does not matter because there are so many resources and opportunities your school will not provide.

Remember, “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be.”

Galaxy International School

I am Lois Osei –Sekyere, an editor at High School Magazine and a student of Aburi Girls’ High School. I am grateful to Sarah Haberson and Empowerly for the resources.