The College Conversation: There is a campus for everyone

January 29, 2011|By Lisa McLaughlin

The belief that "college is not for everyone" is a copout.

More often than not, students don't hear this statement in spoken words. It stares back at them on a report card. It rears its ugly head when students select coursework for the subsequent year.

It's the teacher who drops Johnny from her class since he did not meet the course pre-requisite.

It's the placement test that relegates a student to a remedial course.

It's the mom who is so frustrated with the student's less-than-stellar grades that she stops talking about college altogether.

All of this screams, "You are not good enough for college!"

Too often, the student walks away with his tail between his legs or waives a white flag declaring, "I give up."


While it is certainly true that selective colleges are not for everyone (after all, that is what makes them selective), I respectfully disagree that a college education should be relegated to only the smartest, brightest, most capable and diligent young adults.

There is "a" college for everyone, and it is our job to ensure the door to college is left open to all. What is behind that door may differ from student to student (as it should), but we have no right to slam that door in a child's face.

Inevitably, some options will dry up as students progress through high school, but that doesn't mean none are left. So don't make the mistake of abandoning the prospect of college just because UCLA is out of the picture.

Not a day goes by without my verbalizing "there is 'a' college for everyone."

Just this week, I calmed down a panicked high school student who called to ask if her C- in math just ruined her college chances.

I also declared to an unmotivated 10th grader that one semester of low grades would not squelch his dreams of college. There are colleges that accept students who have grade-point average below 3.0.

This message is important for school personnel as well. If a student earns Cs, it doesn't mean he is not college material. Let's be careful about the message being sent if students are allowed to drop classes, level down, and skate through their senior year without a math, science and foreign language class.

If a bad semester hurts your student's chance of admission at some colleges, so be it. Mistakes happen, and it is not the end of the world. Cs on a high school transcript do not mean your child is going to community college. Lack of a laundry list of activities on a student's resume, does not mean your child won't have college options.

We are fortunate in the United States of America to have the freedom to pursue higher education. There is "a" college for everyone.

But, you knew that already, right?

LISA McLAUGHLIN is the founder and executive director of EDvantage Consulting Inc., an independent college admission counseling firm in South Orange County. Her column runs Sundays. Please send college admissions questions to

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