Vol. 16 No. 5 February 2002
Where Do The "C" Students Go?
Opportunities For Average Graduates
THEY MAY NOT get into Harvard, Yale or any of the top name brand colleges. But for college-bound students with just average grades, there are still many schools of higher learning that welcome them.
Early this year, COLLEGE BOUND looked at the admissions policies at several representative colleges and universities around the country and found that, despite the current competitive atmosphere, high school students with a 2.0 GPA, SATs of 850 to 1050 or ACTs of 18 or above still have a variety of educational options open to them.
While much of the attention in the media focuses on the top colleges and the status of "A" and "B" students, "We should care about 'C' students because they're the backbone of our country," says Claire D. Friedlander, a college consultant at Bedford Central School District in New York and with Jewish Family Service in Stamford, Connecticut. She observes that half the students she counsels are "C" students. "That means they're average-the guy next door, the gal next door."
WHERE DO THEY GO?
It is important to remind parents that in every region of the country, that state, city and private four-year colleges and universities accept "C" students.
Most two-year schools also offer an alternative for the student with average grades and SATs. Religious colleges and universities are an option as well, and often have no religious restrictions on admissions.
Equally important, CB found that numerous affordable colleges and universities are available to the average student, and that "C" students needn't be denied the chance to obtain a higher education because of finances.
What admissions officers know is that average students, if given the opportunity to attend college, frequently excel academically. Peggy Richmond, director of admissions, Keene State College in New Hampshire, notes that these days many students may need to work while in high school or they become involved in activities, and they should not be penalized for that. "If students have worked hard and then had 'C's' across the board, they are likely to do well in college," she says.
Admissions officers also point out that many "C" students go on to earn postgraduate degrees. Why do so many average students end up doing well in college? The reasons vary, but experts cite the following: Mandated academic requirements to remain in school; an increased student maturity after leaving high school; intensified motivation; career path motivation; and from the students' point of view, more interesting classes and more knowledgeable, interesting and highly motivated faculty. Unlike the high school student, the college student also has the option to chose classes suited to his or her personal or career interests.
For students away from home for the first time, there may be a new sense of independence and responsibility that inspires a major academic effort. For students on a rural campus, an absence of distractions, including nightlife and shopping malls was cited as a principal reason for a new academic success.
There is also a consensus among admissions officers that student attitudes often change radically after high school graduation; many become more studious and more serious about school and life.
Friedlander also notes, "The higher you go, the easier it gets, because you're beginning to get into the areas that interest you. When you're in compulsory education...you're taking what the state says is important to be considered educated at a minimum level, which is what a high school diploma is." As students go on with their education, they focus on what they like, she says, "and what you like is highly correlated with what you're good at."
According to Thad Robey, manager of education, College Coach, a commercial consulting firm based in Newton, Massachusetts, "There are many schools out there that accept 'C' students. They're not the top schools, and they're not name brands. But they can provide an excellent education, good support services and in most cases financial aid. There's also an emphasis at these schools on what students at this level need to succeed academically. Most offer counseling that helps them to fully develop their fundamental skills."
Also, students who did not perform well academically in high school have the potential to excel. "Students who haven't blossomed yet in high school may nevertheless have the potential and skills to do well and make a contribution," Robey explains. "Many of these students have gone on to earn advanced degrees, and some have become physicians, lawyers and other professionals."
When searching for a college where "C" students are admitted, keep in mind that there's more than 4,000 schools of higher learning in the country and numerous choices are available, Robey points out.
In New England, Castleton State College, Castleton, Vermont, admits students with "C" average high school grades and 1000-level SATs. Founded in 1787, and one of the country's oldest institutions of higher learning, Castleton has a student population of about 1,700, 45 percent of which is from out-of-state.
"Students who come in with average grades are a significant portion of our freshman population," says Bill Allen, dean of enrollment at Castleton. "Many of them go on to earn a Phi Beta Kappa. For us, it's a common occurrence." Small class sizes and a 17-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio are among the factors, which promote academic success at Castleton, according to Allen. Financial aid is also available for incoming "C" students, and about 80 percent of these receive some form of financial assistance.
IN THE SOUTH
The University of West Alabama, Livingston, has an open door admission policy for average students, according to Miles Hester, director of admissions.
"Basic requirements are a minimum ACT of 18, and/or an 870 minimum SAT, and a 2.0 GPA," says Hester. "Students will also be admitted if they submit proof of high school graduation, and if their grades are below requirements, they'll be admitted on a probationary basis." Financial aid is available on a per-need basis, and additional in-house scholarship programs are also offered.
About half of the student population of nearly 2,000 are in the average high school category, according to Hester. But many do well in college and some go on to post-graduate degrees, Hester says. Average class size is about 25, and the student-to-faculty ratio is about 18-to-1. Approximately 30 percent of the student body is from out-of- state.
In the heart of the Midwest is Chadron State College, Chadron, Nebraska, a school with a very hospitable admission policy. "We have no SAT requirements, no grade requirements," says Tena Gould, director of admissions. "We're open admissions, as long as the applicant has graduated from high school. But some students will be required to take remedial courses in English and mathematics before they can take regular college courses." Roughly half of the student population of 2,600 came in as average students, according to Gould.
Chadron State College is part of a three-college Nebraska state system, which also includes Peru State College and Wayne State College, both of which have the same admissions policies.
"Average students do very well at Chadron," Gould says. "We're in a small rural community so there's no nightlife, no malls and no distractions. Students get a lot of personal attention from faculty and from local residents in a host-parent program. And students can get involved right away in all student activities. They don't have to wait to join clubs, run for office or participate in other programs."
Financial aid on a per-need basis is available to all students. About 21 percent of the student population is from out-of-state, mainly from the surrounding states of South Dakota, Kansas, Colorado and Iowa.
WEST OF THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE
Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana, is another institution where the average student is welcomed.
"We get a lot of students out of high school who want to do something more with their education, and we tell them we have a lot to offer," says Steph Loughney, an admissions officer at Rocky Mountain College.
Admission requirements are a 2.5 GPA, a SAT score of at least 800 and an ACT minimum of 18. "All students get a lot of one-on-one attention from their professors, so they can grow academically, emotionally and spiritually," says Loughney. Financial aid is available and about 95 percent of the roughly 800 students receive it in some form.
In the Far West, Eastern Oregon University, La Grande, Oregon, has no minimum SAT requirement, but requires a 2.75 GPA for admission, although the application of a 2.5 student will also be considered. Admission will be granted the 2.5 GPA student if there are extenuating circumstances, explains Christian Steinmetz, director of admissions. "If the 2.5 student had family issues, moved a lot or even worked part time, he or she could still be admitted."
With a low class size, a student-to-faculty ratio of 14-to-1 and free tutoring, average students can and do excel academically, Steinmetz points out.
Of the 2,000 students, about 70 percent are Oregon residents. But there are no additional out-of-state tuition charges and so students are drawn here from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii.
Average students who live in or near large or medium size cities should also consider attending a city college. Many have hospitable admission policies. In New York City, for example, Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York, a two-year college will accept anyone with a high school diploma or a general equivalency diploma, and average grades. Financial aid is available, and tuition costs are reasonable for both residents of New York State and out-of-state residents. Full-time New York resident students with 12 or more credit hours pay $1,300, full-time out-of-state students pay $1,588, exclusive of all required fees.
Located in the Brooklyn community of Manhattan Beach, Kingsborough Community College has a student enrollment of about 15,000. The school offers 28 degrees and two certificates. Among the degrees offered are, biology, business, nursing, computer science, exercise science, physical therapy and tourism and hospitality.
"Unless they have a [passing] level on SATs, incoming students are given placement tests in reading, writing and mathematics to determine if they need remedial courses," says Robert Ingenito, director of recruitment and development. "We give all these students an opportunity to move forward in their academic life. We have a free tutoring laboratory, a bilingual program for Spanish-speaking students and an office, which helps students with learning disabilities... We also have an eight-story research library. And every student... has an academic advisor."
With this full range of student services, including no-cost tutoring, Kingsborough has one of the highest graduation rates among city colleges of New York, says Ingenito. "Any student who graduates from Kingsborough is guaranteed admission to a four-year school within the City University of New York system."
Private two-year schools, which offer, associate degrees and professional training programs are another option. Argosy University, for example, now has 12 main campuses in nine states: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, Virginia and Washington.
Admission requirements at Argosy University/Twin Cities in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, for example, do not exclude students with average grades, SATs and ACTs.
"High school grades are not always the best indicators of a student's future level of success," says Jeanne Stoneking, director of admissions of Argosy University/Twin Cities.
"Many students who have not done well in high school have gone on to take certain courses and find a career path that they truly desire and...many times these students turn out to be the best students."
The eight two-year undergraduate allied health care programs offered at Argosy/Twin Cities are dental hygiene, diagnostic medical, medical assisting, medical laboratory technology, histotechnology, radiology technology, radiation therapy and veterinarian technician.
"We have a high pass rate on professional state exams, and a hire rate of 90 to 100 percent, depending on the associate degree," says Stoneking. A significant percentage of these students came to Argosy University/ Twin Cities as average students, she notes.
Finally, it is worth remembering that Albert Einstein dropped out of high school with poor grades in history, geography and languages. Later, he resumed his education, earned a four-year degree in physics, and eventually was recognized as one of the most creative intellects in human history.
Guide Book Lists 100 Colleges
A variety of guides are also available for an efficient nationwide search for colleges and universities where average students are welcome. Among them: 100 Colleges Where Average Students Can Excel, by Joe Anne Adler, published by Arco, an imprint of Peterson's.
"The majority of American high school students are in the middle tier of SAT scores," says Michael H. Fleischner, vice president, business development and marketing for Peterson's. "That's why we created this guide - because the majority of students are at this level."
100 Colleges Where Average Students Can Excel, lists schools around the country where an