Top Colleges for B & C Students
High schoolers can better their admissions chances at many good schools.
Competition to get into Ivy League–level schools is fiercer than ever. So where does that leave the majority of high schoolers — steady students who nonetheless fall short of the straight As, single-digit class rank and high test scores elite universities expect?
In the driver’s seat, according to experts. “A lot of people think that there are only 20 good schools in the United States,” says Andrew Belasco, PhD, CEO of College Transitions in Conshohocken, PA. “In fact, there are hundreds of good schools. It’s just about finding the right institution.”
As early as 10th grade, teens should ask themselves “What makes me a successful student?” advises Daniel Evans, director of college counseling at Philly’s William Penn Charter School.
A GPA of less than 3.5 does not indicate a lack of success. Has a student improved grades year over year? Enrolled in weighted honors, AP or accelerated classes? Taken on a leadership position in a club or sport? Early self-reflection, Evans says, gives teens the ability to take the college-prep process “in doses, giving it the thought and time” required.
Such a long-term perspective is important, says 17-year-old Madison Stofflet. The rising senior from Douglasville, PA, didn’t step up her game, join clubs or tackle honors courses until her junior year. Now, as application deadlines
loom, she admits feeling overwhelmed. Her advice: “As a freshman, strive to do your best, take challenging classes and pace yourself, because high school is short. It goes by superfast and before you know it, it’s time for college.”
The grading game
Students like Stofflet can positively impact the admissions process by trending their grades upward, says Belasco. Trending up occurs when a student improves, say, a report card of 3 Bs and 3 Cs in 10th grade to 5 Bs and 1 C in 11th. This shows colleges that the student is dedicated to learning and has the ability to improve as subject matter becomes more difficult.
Students can also compensate for average grades by bringing up their SAT or ACT scores or by taking an honors course that weighs a B as if it were an A in a less rigorous class.
Indeed, applications reflect more than just grades. Personal statements, essays, a record of committed extracurricular involvement and teacher recommendations that describe a grit and willingness to work through challenges all help admissions officers get to know applicants better. Evans suggests that average students take advantage of the college interview process, a face-to-face meeting during which it may be easier to put a B- in context than it seems on a cold transcript.
The college landscape
Rather than focusing attention on reach schools, B and C students are smart to target colleges with higher admittance rates — those that admit half of their applicants. “The good news,” says Evans, “is that’s the majority of the colleges and universities in the United States.”
Consider out-of-state private schools that may offer generous financial-aid packages to far-flung students with solid Bs. “Often you can get a much better deal and fit by traveling far away,” says Belasco.
Guidance counselors can help students determine a list of achievable colleges. Once you have a workable list, schedule campus visits, which are “very important to get a feel for the culture and determine if the school has the right fit,” explains Laura Morris, director of admissions at Wilmington University. Once there, Evans advises parents to encourage teens to “look beyond the sales pitch portions of the process and begin to peel back some layers” to see whether the school matches your child’s goals and abilities.
Lynda Dell is a freelance writer and experienced PA-certified early childhood educator.