College Education Concerns in the 21st Century
(c) M. Ryder
He was still uncertain when his guidance counselor urged him to research the network of campuses that make up the
"It was eye-opening," he says. "Getting in definitely seemed possible." This fall, he will enter his junior year at
He's majoring in English and earning mostly A's. Oh, yes, and he's happy there. "I love this place," he says.
It's an example that all high school students with uneven academic profiles or uncertain visions of their future can take to heart. And it
embodies a truth that college applicants all too often forget: Beyond the small roster of nationally renowned schools lie many that aren't
household names but have first-rate programs and strong reputations. For the fifth year,
Keeping hope afloat might be the hardest hurdle for worried students to overcome, but it shouldn't be. Consider a simple, encouraging
statistic: "Our data show that four-year colleges on average accept about 7 out of 10 students who apply," says
"That B average gets you into a lot of good schools, and with a C average you still have a lot to offer colleges," she says. "B students are the backbone of most colleges, and they should not at all feel ashamed of their grades."
Like Krilov-Egbert, you may fear that putting off thinking about college until junior year or beyond will spell doom for your college plans.
But that's not the case. "Kids who are in their junior year thinking that they haven't done their best may feel doors are closed, and some may
"But not all doors are closed, and students can begin wherever they are in high school to strengthen their academic record and demonstrate they're engaged in learning."
Beyond the numbers. Grades count, but that's not all that matters, especially once you get past the superselective schools.
"We look at the academics, but we also go beyond that," says
"For the last five years, we have noticed a distinct tendency for colleges to attribute more weight or emphasis to an applicant's interest in attending that particular school," says the NACAC's Hawkins. The reason is that ever greater numbers of applications, combined with the uncertain economy, have made it increasingly difficult for colleges to predict how many students who are sent acceptance letters in April actually will attend in September.
The lesson here is to emphasize why a particular college is the right school for you.
A student from
"We welcome students who want to meet with us, and it makes an impression when they visit
Come across as an individual.
Sure, those essays can be a drag to write, but they present a key opportunity to differentiate yourself from other applicants. Getting good topics for your essays is especially important if your grades or board scores don't stand out, says Bloomquist, adding, "Don't let yourself appear just ho-hum."
"We're tired of reading the 'I hit the big shot to win the game' essay. We've read enough of those," says Delahunt. "We want to know what the student will bring to the table." A recitation of facts alone won't do the trick. Personalize the story into something only you can write. "If there has been a tragedy in the family -- as sad as that is -- we want to know, 'What now?' Where and how did you deal with that loss, and where did that take you?"
Says Delahunt, "That's the kind of story we like to hear."
And that's the real lesson for all B students who want to make it to the top:
Whatever your grade-point average, you are an individual, and you have strengths that belong only to you. Show them off to best advantage, and oh, the places you'll go.
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(c) 2009 U.S. News & World Report