You worked hard in high school, devoted yourself to your studies, got really good grades, played on a team or two, and spent weekends reading to retired soldiers, and then you had to choose among the 10 colleges who wanted you to enroll, right?
Not everyone’s that lucky, smart, mature, motivated, talented, aware in their teens. Not everyone has the grades to have a choice of colleges.
What do those kids do?
First you have to figure out why you didn’t do as well as you would have liked in high school.
Academic challenges. If high school was too hard for you, chances are you shouldn’t be going directly to a standard four year college. College learning isn’t easier than high school learning. Sure, you’ll be able to take classes that are closer to your interests, but most colleges require students to take specific classes in the first year or two, and then specific classes within a major.
Motivational challenges. It’s hard to get motivated to turn in that project if you don’t see the point of it. If you don’t have a vision of what you want to do with your life, it’s likely that you don’t feel like working hard in any class. If your parents nag, if your friends are out partying, if you indulge in a little recreational substance from time to time, if school starts too early, it’s hard to work up the drive to do that next geometry worksheet or take chapter notes on that assigned novel. I have bad news for you: it’s even harder to get motivated in college where they don’t take attendance, they don’t assign daily assignments, and they don’t call your parents if you’re falling behind.
Sometimes, kids just wake up too late. If you didn’t put any effort into grades 8 through 11, you may find yourself in a common situation. You can get really good grades now, but is it too late?
Here are some solutions:
Go to a very easy college, work hard, and then transfer. If you’re perfectly capable of doing college-level work but just woke up to the value of good grades too late, you can explain it in your application essay. Lots of kids don’t realize the value of hard work in high school at 15 or 16 and don’t put in any effort until they’re nearly ready to graduate. There are many colleges that accept those students. You probably won’t get a scholarship, and you might never have heard of the school, but there are legitimate schools where you can go and experience college and college life. Hey, you may even wind up liking that school and want to stay, but if you do well, you most certainly can transfer if you choose.
Go to a community college and take some remedial classes in areas where you faced academic challenges. If high school was too hard for you, it might have been because you just never got the academic attention when you needed it in middle school. Perhaps you never really got math. Perhaps you never learned to write a cogent essay. Perhaps you always found literature too challenging. Community colleges usually offer classes where you can work on those weaknesses until your academic level is ready for college. You don’t even have to live home. Several community colleges have the option to live in dorms while you are enrolled. For some students, an associates degree is sufficient for their career choice. Others can transfer to a school that they are proud to attend when their skills have improved.
Join the military. Like the ads say, they’ll train you in a career and pay for your college when you’re done. If your problem was motivational, you might just need a little time to mature. The military will do that for you – quick! You can help your country while you help yourself.
Choose a career that doesn’t require advanced education. Despite what it seems, college just isn’t for everyone, and it doesn’t have to be. Use your personality and go into sales or public relations. Use your talent and become a musician or artist or photographer. Use your ability to work with your hands and become a carpenter or plumber or auto mechanic. Imagine how much farther ahead you’ll be – your peers will be first looking for a job in four years but you’ll be well into your career.
Remember too that there’s no rule that you much go to college immediately after high school. There are programs where you can go abroad for a year or so before you think about college. Google “gap year programs” and you’ll be surprised by all the opportunities. Many students find that a year abroad gives them time to grow up and refine their goals, and gives them something to offer a college when they’re done.
There are so many options. Don’t succumb to what you perceive as societal pressure. Find the path that looks like it might work for you and get going. Even if you change directions somewhere down the lane, at least you will have begun the journey.