Dear Estelle. It seems that each year someone writes for advice about their child, usually male-gendered, who has performed poorly in school and now as a senior wants to attend college with his peers. Well guess what? We have one of those underachieving, late bloomers. Our son attends a prestigious suburban high school, has barely a 2.5 average and 23 on his ACTs. On the plus side, he has been committed to his youth group and is involved in community service. Can you suggest any colleges that will accept him and are there strategies that can make his application appealing to admissions folks?
SB, Greenwood Village
Your son is actually part of a growing problem of underachieving and unmotivated young men (and some women) who frequently settle down and take school seriously once enrolled in college. The key is to identify good college matches and find counselors who will advocate for these students. Sometimes B- or C students will be successful if they attend a 2 year community college program first and then transfer to a four year school. Usually the credits they receive will be transferable at most Colorado colleges and universities. Many students enjoy the environment at the Colorado Mountain Colleges and come away with supported studies and frequently marketable career training. Metro here in Denver is an open enrollment school that takes students who have struggled in high school and want to start fresh in a 4 year college. Throughout the country there are colleges and universities that will take a chance on these late bloomers but must be convinced by a student’s recommendation letters that they are making a turn around in their attitudes and will be diligent students.
It is a good idea to have counselors and students address their particular learning issues in their recommendations and personal essay. Of course, honesty is required. D’s on transcripts are considered low grades even if they are in AP classes. A counselor must acknowledge problems somewhere in their letter and students too must indicate what they’ve learned from some of their problems. Admissions people must be informed whether poor grades were a result of laziness, lack of challenge, illness, or a dysfunctional family or home issues. Colleges need to have as much disclosure as possible. Students need to take responsibility for “D’s” on their transcript and also highlight instances of great intellectual curiosity. A counselor can help a student write about their experiences, which interfered with attaining better grades and what they learned from these experiences. The “late bloomers” are going to get in somewhere and will probably be successful. This is an opportunity for parents and teachers alike to reduce the stress for these students and help them to find the “right match” to start again.