evaluating agricultural h.s. education?

wedgewood98January 8, 2007

Hoping for some help with dilemma.

My 13 y/o dau is in 8th gr and will be entering h.s. next year. She wants to attend the county agricultural high school rather than our public school. I'm having a big problem with the decision.

She is a straight A student and receives highest praises from all her teachers re: motivation, participation, preparedness, etc. She also has lots of friends, is very pretty, popular, etc. so it's not that she's afraid to attend the public h.s.

She is extremely involved in equestrian activities, takes lessons, competes in shows, works at barn mucking stalls on wknds, plans to teach riding lessons in another year or two, etc. Right now, she thinks she wants to be a veterinarian; two of her recent riding instructors now attend UVM for pre-veterinary studies, and this is where she also wants to go. They have been great role models for her, and I couldn't be happier about her academic achievements & goals.


The county agricultural h.s. ('aggie') has an equestrian club & drill team, which is big part of why she wants to attend; it's a beautiful 500 acre campus and is practically across the street from us, another plus (it's been a big part of our lives, walking our dogs, etc.). I tutored there several years ago, and found it to be a genuinely happy place with very high attendance rate; graduation rate is 100%, and 80% go on to higher educ. With a smaller student body, my dau feels she can be a big fish in a little pond, so to speak, with chance to really stand out, perhaps even be class valedictorian.


On the down side: 'aggie' type schools have traditionally been lumped together with the vocational tech schools, and usually attended by non-academic achievers, although this seems to be changing. This particular school has great reputation, and admission has become very competitive, with 120 accepted out of 500 annual applications. I've been emailing college admissions departments and talked to our own veterinarian, and they have not been encouraging, mainly because the school does not have AP classes or languages, although it does have an arrangement with a public college for 'select' students to take televised language college courses.

The only positive feedback I received was from UVM admissions, who said that in general, they do not recommend students attend vocational schools, but this school is 'one we find acceptable for students who have maximized their course selection with the most rigorous college prep courses in math & science'.

I'm concerned about all the negative feedback, that she may be penalized when it comes time to apply to college, and that curriculum may not be challenging enough for this bright, excellent student.

Any input would be most gratefully received!

Here is a link that might be useful: Norfolk Aggie

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She will need 2 or 3 years of a language to get in to a lot of colleges.
Also, keep in mind that she is only in 8th grade. She can change her mind about what she wants to do in her life. It is not unusual for kids to do that. (I know from experience)
Is she still going to compete in shows and teach lessons when she goes to high school? Because if she is on the drill team and equestrian team, there will be no time. These activities usually take up a lot of time. (Practice, practice, and more practice....and trips) She will need to choose one or the other. Coaches want the kids to live eat and breath their sport or activity. (Been there, done that) Doesn't the Public School have a drill team?
Who made the decision? You need to make the call on this one, mom. Seems like you are having second thoughts. It's bugging you for a reason.
Kids often don't know what the best thing is for them. We as parents need to do what we think is best. Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2007 at 9:27PM
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She should be aware that vet school is harder to get into than med school so top grades and EC activities are a must.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 9:54AM
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In our state, there is only one university that has a vet degree program. She would never qualify to enroll as an agriculture high school student as there are so many students vying for this highly respected university's program. She needs to attend a good high school, take AP classes, especially in math and science, and get involved in school and communitiy activities. I would certainly allow her to continue with her equestrian activities IF she can manage them with the demands of a challenging high school class schedule. She must be able to compete with outstanding students with admissions at the university. It is not unusual to hear about valedictorians being rejected. An ag valedictorian does not compare to one from a comprehensive high school. She will be shutting college doors that she will later regret.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2007 at 4:37PM
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The biggest negative I see is one you haven't mentioned. She'll be severely limiting her options.

Look, the plain facts are that very, very few kids end up in the career they dreamed of in 8th grade. Many change their minds in high school--as they experience more of life and see more options. Many get to college and switch majors. Of my DD's friends, I think only 2 of dozens of kids I know, actually got the college degree they started out going after. That's an important thing to keep in mind.

I have a question, though--one that might make a regular high school education more palatable to her. If the agricultural school as an agreement for their students to take advantage of courses from the public schools, any chance of a reciprocal agreement that might allow your daughter to go to public school, but be involved in the extra-curricular activities that appeal to her at the agricultural school? Might not be possible, but I'd definitely be asking the question were I in your shoes, to see if there wasn't some compromise that could be reached.

Another compromise option--could she take a couple of years (and maybe some summer courses) at the public school, trying to get in the requirements she'll need for college, and then transfer to the agricultural school? Best of both, perhaps?

    Bookmark   March 3, 2007 at 8:06AM
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azzalea, the most challenging courses she will need are at the junior and senior level. She won't get them at the ag school.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 2:25AM
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Actually it looks like the school goes up to pre-calc in math and does well in sciences too. I don't think vet schools care that much about what high school you attend. I remember them asking for the name of my HS and graduation date and that was it. I think that if your daughter was serious about vet school, she could be very well-served by attending the ag HS as long as she goes to the top as far as the science and math courses. She would need to take Calc in college anyway. If you look at the vet school admissions pre-reqs, it's all about your college experiences, nothing about HS. As long as she does well and is accepted into a 4-year accredited college and does well there, vet school won't be a problem.

What would set her apart from other vet applicants is all the ag experience she would get. Vet schools are looking for people with diverse backgrounds and a lot of animal experience, both of which she would get at the ag HS. She could emphasize her equestrian and other animal experiences on her vet school application and they would be suitably impressed. However I cannot stress enough her need to aggressively prepare for a rigorous college experience while she is in HS. The pre-reqs for vet school include challenging college courses such as physics, physical and organic chem, biochem, usually 2+ social studies course, some business courses (maybe), etc. If she is not on a level upon graduating HS to take these courses, she will be set back a bit in fullfilling her vet school requirements. Not that it's impossible- I did my first year of college as a pre-architecture student!

I put a link to NC State pre-reqs so you can see what would be required should she take that route. Most vet schools are about the same in pre-reqs +/- misc courses here and there.

Oh, I'm an NC State vet student :) Good luck to your daughter!

Here is a link that might be useful: NC State-CVM pre-reqs

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 4:20PM
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Dear Wedgewood98,

I am an eighth grade student that will be going to Norfolk County Agricultural High School next year. Your daughter should have no trouble getting into the school if she is an A student like you said. I got in to Norfolk Aggie with AÂs and BÂs. If the school has to resort to a selective process it means that the school your daughter applied to is a good school and that there are resources there that you cannot find at a mainstream high school. I have to say that the information you got regarding that agricultural schools were for non-academic achievers is totally incorrect. In Norfolk Aggie and Tri County Regional Vocational Technical High School the number one thing that is taken most seriously and is reviewed for every student is grades. I promise you that your daughter going to this school means she will be surrounded by motivated, hard-working students that have good grades. In a mainstream high school you have a mixed amount of kids with different views of school and if your daughter went there she would be in classes with some highly motivated teens and some teens that have little regard for school. You said yourself that 80% of graduates go onto higher education which basically means college. So your daughter can get into college. Make sure she gets signed up for the televised language college courses. The curriculum should be challenging enough for her. In this school she will experience learning new things and doing lots of hand-on work that she has never done before and will learn things that she could not learn in a mainstream high school. Take it from me let her go to the aggie.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2007 at 5:01PM
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