Not to hijack, but how do you assess how hard a school is and determine if your child would be able to handle the work? My dd has one far reach and two low reaches if you look at her stats. She's had one C (a 79 dang it!) and taken all honors and AP classes at a pretty rigorous Catholic high school. Her grades and test scores in English are high, and she's looking at majoring in English, so I feel like she'd be successful at those schools. Is there some way to figure out how academically difficult a school is?
As their teacher, I had a pretty good idea of how prepared my children were for an academically challenging school. I sent them off with warnings about what sort of classes they were not prepared for. For instance, I told them not to take art history. They were totally unprepared for this sort of writing that they would need to do for an art history class and the sort of history they would need to know. I also knew that they were likely to think the sort of analysis required for that kind of class stupid.
I think that to survive an academically difficult course load, a student has to be able to:
Read quickly and easily
Skim large quantities of material and pick out the important points
Do research for different sorts of material
Bang out papers quickly
Reduce large quantities of material to a study guide
Write a lab report
Use lab equipment
Apply math to real problems
Work through math and science problem sets quickly
Really think about the information that is presented and its implications and apply it, link it up with the rest of their knowledge, and use it, not just parrot it back
Make a coherent argument
I also think the student needs to have some sprt of knowledge base and experience. And they need a reasonably good work ethic OR some natural talent with academics. Both would be even better.
I could take some sort of guess at how difficult a school in my region is by using a combination of thinking about the people I know who went to the school, requirements for applying, reputation, advertising, talking to students, graduation requirements, and course descriptions. Do all students do a senior project/thesis? How much research do they do for a class? Reading? How many papers or labs do they do? Are all the exams multiple choice? Does their calculus 1 class start where a typical high school calc class leaves off? How far do their course choices go in a particular subject? (For example, if there is a French major, how many French literature classes are offered?) Etc.
You can also ask professionals in a particular field which schools have a good reputation.