If you read the papers or listen to other parents, the only kids getting into college are those with a 4.0 GPA and who have done things most adults have yet to accomplish. This is simply not true! In my 20+ years of work with high school students from all levels of accomplishment, I want to assure you that there are colleges for all who want to attend and work when they get there. Here are some tips to finding the colleges that value YOUR accomplishments:
1. Be realistic: If your GPA is 3.0 or lower, don’t aim from the most selective colleges in the country. Those are the 24 – 50 colleges whose names everyone knows. Recognize that these colleges, in many cases, are not better than the ones no one has heard of, and they are definitely not the best for you.
2. Know what colleges are looking at: Colleges will look at your unweighted GPA in your core classes and at what is available at your high school. If a student tries to stretch within the curriculum and earns B/B+ in Honors or AP classes, that student is preferable to one who took only standard level classes and got all A’s.
3. What you do outside of the classroom is almost as important as what you do in it. Make the effort to be involved in your school community through clubs, sports, fine arts, and community service. If there is nothing at your school that interests you, find an activity outside of school to become actively involved in. This could be tutoring, a regular job, community service, Scouting, Big Brother/Big Sister, religious groups, or any of the many other opportunities that exist in all communities.
4. Take the trouble to really think about your application! Make sure that it is both accurate and complete.
5. Answer the questions asked in the essays and don’t repeat what can be seen elsewhere in the application. This is your chance to become a human being to the college. Don’t give a rehash of your activities or use it as the place to explain why you are not a good test taker.
6. Choose your recommendations carefully. These should be teachers who really know you as a person and like who you are. Give the teacher the courtesy of asking well in advance if s/he is willing to recommend you.
7. Work with someone who knows the college process and can help you navigate it to present yourself in the best light without gilding the lily.
I work with students from all parts of the academic spectrum and find that it is often easier for students not in the top 10% of the class to find the right colleges for them. These students are realistic, know how to work for their grades, and are multi-dimensional. I recommend the following resources:
Finally, if the worst happens and none of the colleges to whom you have applied take you, there is a list published each year after May 1st of colleges which still have room in their freshman class. Many of the names on this list would surprise you.
If you need more help with this or any other aspect of college planning, please call me at 803-487-977 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.