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We use statewide administrative data from Missouri to examine the role of high schools in explaining students’ initial college and major placements at 4-year public universities. Conditional on a student’s own academic preparation, the high school attended predicts the rigor of the initial university, and within the university, the rigor of the initial major. We identify a relatively sparse set of school characteristics – and characteristics of schools’ local communities – that account for much of the explanatory power of high schools. Complementing previous studies, we show that students from low-SES high schools enroll in less rigorous universities than their similarly-qualified peers from high- SES high schools. Students from low-SES schools also enroll in less rigorous majors within universities. Black-white gaps in the rigor of the initial college and major can be explained entirely by students’ own pre-entry academic preparation and a small number of high school and neighborhood characteristics.