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Articles / Applying to College / Should Non-Traditional Student Dislose Shaky Start When Reapplying?

Oct. 29, 2010

Should Non-Traditional Student Dislose Shaky Start When Reapplying?

Question:I am a non-traditional college student trying to continue on for my four-year degree. Between 1994 and '96 I attended a four-year school and basically flunked out with a 1.9 GPA. Since then I have a cumulative 3.48 GPA with two associates degrees. I have applied to different schools with the aforementioned four-year school listed on there and I have been denied three times, mainly because they take the credits from the four-year schools but not the two-year schools. So, when applying to my next school, should I leave that four-year off the application? I feel bad doing it, but I also feel I am being judged on grades that are no longer indicative of what kind of student I am.

Unfortunately, you cannot omit any part of your academic history from your applications. I know that it seems unfair to be penalized for youthful follies because you've clearly gotten back on track since then. However, should you apply to another school now without revealing your record, you run the risk of having your acceptance overturned, if your past were to come to light. In fact, I've even heard the sad story of one student in your shoes who concealed a false start, applied to a new college, got accepted and did well there, but was expelled just weeks before graduation when his dishonesty was discovered.


If you continued to be denied admission in spite of your recent successes, my guess is that you are applying to the wrong colleges or are making some other error in your applications. There are many four-year schools that would happily accept a mature student with a 3.48 GPA and two associates degrees, even one with long-ago blemishes on his transcript.

Have you already worked with a transfer counselor from your two-year schools to help you with placement? Most community colleges have "articulation agreements" with several four-year colleges. These agreements guarantee ... or at least facilitate ... transferring into the participating four-year colleges as long as you've met certain standards at the two-year school. Have you looked into such agreements at your two-year college(s)?

One other strategy you might try is that, before you apply elsewhere again, make an appointment to meet in person with the college's admission officer who oversees transfer applicants. Explain your situation to him or her and then ask how to proceed. You may get some helpful advice this way and you'll also potentially make a "friend" in the admission office.

A few four-year colleges even offer "academic forgiveness" programs that allow students who were once enrolled and did poorly to return to redeem themselves. In these cases, the original grades remain as part of the student's record, but the college also computes a second "clean-slate" grade-point average that allows the student a second chance at a good GPA. Perhaps you should check with the transfer official at your old four-year school to see if they have such an option.

In any case, your early college record is certainly not indicative of your strength as a student, so I hope you persist and find a four-year college that will welcome you ... as many should.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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