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Colleges for B Students

Are there colleges out there where "B" students can gain acceptance and thrive? A local college consultant gives offers some suggestions for families.

Nobody’s perfect. Not every teenager is bound for the Ivy League. But if your teenager happens to be in the broad range of "B" students, I assure you there are many opportunities out there to satisfy his or her aspirations. With 2,500 accredited four-year higher educational institutions in the United States, there is an appropriate place for just about everyone who wants to go to college.

"B" students can have any number of individual stories. Some might be late bloomers, distracted from academics early in high school, but catching up junior or senior year as they mature and find their feet. Some may be solid students with an Achilles’ heel in one academic area, such as mathematics or foreign language, that drags down the GPA. There may be a learning disability, attentional disorder, or psychological condition that needs to be diagnosed and addressed. It is also possible that the student’s passion is focused on a less academic field, such as culinary arts, photography, fashion design, or graphic arts; he or she is therefore simply not engaged by abstract courses such as Latin or Calculus. His or her true talents are not measured in the high school GPA. This student may be better directed toward an art school, technical institute, or career college, rather than a traditional college or university.

In this post, I would like to focus on "B" students who are late bloomers, inconsistent performers, learning challenged, or emotionally fragile. They have special individual needs that need be considered in the college application process. It is not enough to simply find colleges with accessible admissions criteria. In my college consulting practice, I suggest that families of "B" students consider small-to-medium colleges, if affordable, with a favorable faculty-student ratio, academic support, a close-knit student body, focus on the undergraduate, and a nurturing environment. "B" students are not entering college as finished products, ready to grab the brass ring; they are, in fact, underprepared, and need a transformational environment to help them mature and gain skills for success.

Where are these colleges? Pick up Loren Pope’s "Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think about Colleges." Pope described these small, intimate colleges as having “a familial sense of communal enterprise … a faculty of scholars devoted to helping young people develop their powers, mentors who often become their valued friends.” Of Pope’s 40 transformational schools, the most accessible for "B" students include: Beloit (Wisc.), Knox (Ill.), Ohio Wesleyan, Hiram, College of Wooster (Ohio), Kalamazoo (Mich.), Earlham (Ind.), Juniata (Pa.), Marlboro (Vt.), Goucher and McDaniel (Md.), Lynchburg (Va.), and Guilford (N.C.). Visit the ctcl.org website for a full list of these schools.

I also recommend the chapter on “Hidden Gems” from Steven Antonoff’s "The College Finder: Choose the School That’s Right for You." Of Antonoff’s hidden gems, the most accessible for "B" students include: Hobart & Smith (N.Y.), Champlain (Vt.), Endicott (Mass.), Bryant (R.I.), Fairfield (Conn.), Drew (N.J.), High Point (N.C.), and College of Charleston (S.C.). For Antonoff’s complete hidden gem lists, visit his website, InsideCollege.com

If your "B" student is challenged by standardized testing, take a look at the SAT/ACT test optional schools listed at Fairtest.org. Many are also listed by Pope or Antonoff. Test optional schools most accessible for "B" students include: Hobart & Smith (N.Y.), Marlboro (Vt.), Hampshire (Mass.), Providence and Bryant (R.I.), Goucher and Loyola Maryland (Md.), U of Scranton (Pa.), Gilford (N.C.), and Knox (Ill.).

I hesitate to recommend large universities for students who have struggled academically in high school. The mission of state universities is to serve the public; therefore, many of these schools are accessible, even for applicants with less competitive credentials. After matriculation, however, these institutions gradually separate the wheat from the chaff. For "B" students unprepared for a sink-or-swim situation, I am inclined to suggest a more intimate college atmosphere, in which somebody notices if a freshman cuts class.

Such an environment could be public; Penn State‘s satellite campuses, for example, offer a small-scale “junior college” experience, which offer associates and bachelor degrees but can also prepare late bloomers to transfer to, and eventually succeed at, the flagship campus in University Park. The student will eventually get to enjoy the “rah-rah” Division I sports and Greek life college experience that many middle class families seem to consider a rite of passage. By approaching the college experience in "steps," the student is able to perform academically in a rigorous, respected institution, building the confidence and foundation for a successful career. 

And that's what it is all about, really, for "B" students and all students. Finding a good fit in college, growing and developing, and eventually SUCCEEDING. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

TJ February 08, 2012 at 04:46 PM
So these days a B student is viewed as someone like this: "students who have struggled academically in high school". I didn't realize a B meant struggling these days.
HG February 08, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Only 30% of Americans get a BA. (That percentage has been stable for decades.) Therefore, "B" students can be classified as college-bound students who struggled relative to their college-bound peers. (Many students below a B will not graduate from college, though, of course, that depends upon a lot of things like where you are from, your family's background, and your motivation.)
Kris Hintz February 08, 2012 at 06:30 PM
TJ, thanks for your excellent question. In this post, i am not talking about a teen who gets a B or even a C in a course or two; I am talking about a student whose GPA throughout high school averages slightly south of 3.0 or slightly north. Alas, we no longer live in a world of the "Gentleman C"---it has probably become more like the "Gentleman B." As I am sure you can appreciate, we live in an age of grade inflation, as well as fierce population-driven competition for spots in selective colleges. According to College Board, the percentage of applicants accepted with GPA's of 3.0-3.24 is generally under 10%, and those accepted with GPA's of 2.5-2.99 is 1-2%, even at colleges of average selectivity. So the competition is definitely tough out there. Students with a GPA in the broad B range have many different individual situations. Hopefully, this post has some helpful suggestions for families as they go through the college search and application process!
r February 08, 2012 at 06:52 PM
"Penn State‘s satellite campuses, for example, offer a small-scale “junior college” experience, which offer associates and bachelor degrees but can also prepare late bloomers to transfer to, and eventually succeed at, the flagship campus in University Park." This seems overly cautious. You wouldn't believe what you would have to do to get kicked out of Penn State.
TJ February 12, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Yes, I consider myself ignorant to the expectations and college process these days. In my day, it was called "a solid B" but it sounds like that's not the case anymore.
HK June 02, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Perhaps it's time to realize that not everyone wants or needs to go to college to be successful. What I perceive as being successful is not only monetary, but much more. We now live in an era when a truly talented plumber, electrician and skilled contractors can make a more comfortable living than a doctor or lawyer and possibly live a more personally content life. I went to college and have a successful independent career, but I paid my own way and I didn't owe 100k when I was done.
Kris Hintz August 18, 2012 at 09:07 PM
HK, I totally agree. Expectations that high school graduates will go to four year colleges have grown significantly in the past fifty years, as though it is a "rite of passage" for young adults. Yet there are many young people who would rather pursue more "hands-on" concrete careers that require technical training--who really don't have much intrinsic interest in the liberal arts. Their education dollar would be much better invested in training for an occupation that would be truly fulfilling for them, as well as needed in our society. I wish that more parents would have the courage to encourage each child in the family to pursue his or her true passion and skill set, rather than "keeping up with the Jonses" in terms of higher education choices.

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