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Suggestions - any colleges forgiving of a lower GPA due to a one semester screw-up?

1stTimeThruMom1stTimeThruMom 390 replies9 threads Member
Hoping to find some wisdom from the 2019, Been There, Done That crowd!

My son was planning to attend a service academy and so sophomore year he went off his ADD Rx to see if he could succeed without it as required for Air Force pilots. His grades dropped from a 3.5 freshman year to a 2.6, which he pulled up by end of year. However, he was not allowed to take APs junior year because of this slip up.

He recalculated his grades without the first semester sophomore year and they’d be a 3.7. He has a 3.9 for junior year thus far and is taking APs senior year.

He’s only taken SAT once, scored lower than he’d like (1290) but had not had Algebra II yet. He is taking precalc over summer and his goal is to bring SAT up to 1350 - 1400+ range.

He interviews extremely well, well spoken and intellectually curious. He is aiming for top schools because all his friends are shooting for those schools and he wants to he challenged by top peers.

I am trying to steer him to less well known schools where there would be a chance at merit, but this is not being received well.

Sorry for the lengthy post. Any feedback (non-snarky) is most appreciated!
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Replies to: Suggestions - any colleges forgiving of a lower GPA due to a one semester screw-up?

  • TS0104TS0104 1530 replies31 threads Senior Member
    I'm not an expert in any of these areas, but thought I would post some general thoughts. Often, special circumstances are addressed in letters of recommendation, either by teachers or the guidance counselor. So, in terms of you looking for ways to address that issue, you would want to think about whether the GC or a teacher could speak to the medication experiment. Of course, this means disclosing the ADD diagnosis, which is also something to think about (I have no pro or con here, but I know that disclosure of issues such as this has been discussed on this forum).

    A realistic list is essential, that includes both odds of acceptance, and finances. If you have a set amount you can pay per year, it needs to be communicated to your son, and that should help bring him along to the need for merit aid (if there is a need). Also, he can search any school's Common Data Set to see the average GPAs...this is a good way to get a reality check for possible acceptance. If your school has Naviance, that is also a way to check reality with GPAs, or there is a web site that I don't think I can name here but it will show a graph of how many kids with the same stats were accepted or not. His school college counselor should hopefully also provide some input as to what schools are reachable for him.

    Grades and test scores are weighed very highly, and those accepted on the lower ends tend to be athletes, minorities, or first gen students. An extenuating circumstance or a great interview may not do much to overcome a lower GPA or test scores, but would likely put him above students with the same scores, if that makes sense (my opinion). I don't know what you mean by "top schools", but they are super hard to get into for anyone, including the 4.0 students.
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  • intparentintparent 36292 replies644 threads Senior Member
    Don’t let his friends guide his list. Likely he can be very challenged at many schools. Don’t let him super focus on “top schools” with very low acceptance rates. Even without a bad semester, his odds would be low. So... nip that now if you can. Work with him to find a couple affordable safeties he’d be happy to attend, a few matches, then let him toss in a few reaches.

    Have him post a chances thread out here if you think he’d benefit for hearing from someone other than his mom.

    Now. You can strongly insist on a couple safeties, tell him not to come crying to you if he doesn’t get in anyplace else, and let him go (with limits on costs as needed). If he’s going to be stubborn, there are natural consequences.
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  • 1stTimeThruMom1stTimeThruMom 390 replies9 threads Member
    @TS0104 Thanks for the input. I made the mistake of letting him look at a reach, as the head of college counselling suggested we look at colleges of all sizes over break. I also thought it would motivate him to work harder, which it has. But now he thinks he may actually get in and wants to apply ED. I’ve since refused to take him to other reaches until he achieves at least mid-range or upper 25% SAT scores for those schools.
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  • LynnskiLynnski 245 replies12 threads Junior Member
    It's not clear whether he went back on the Adderall, and there's no snark or judgement here. My kid takes the same medication for school days/school year only, and notices a significant difference. If your son attributes the drop in his performance to the absence of Adderall in his system, wouldn't he want to rethink aiming for a situation that requires him to perform without that medication? There are many medical conditions that would interfere with a career as an Air Force pilot. Maybe ADHD is one of them?

    Regarding your question, as you read more on CC, you will see that a tremendous number of students with SATs in the 1500's and straight A grades are very hurt and disappointed when they aim for top schools. You and your son are not alone in needing to rethink your goals as you prepare for college applications. Best of luck.
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  • 1stTimeThruMom1stTimeThruMom 390 replies9 threads Member
    @intparent Thanks - I’m on several of the GPA 3.0 - 3.4 threads and you and @TS0104 have given helpful advice there too.
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  • 1stTimeThruMom1stTimeThruMom 390 replies9 threads Member
    @Lynnski Thanks and sorry for not being more clear. He did end up going back on the medication, hence the college search began as he could no longer contemplate applying to the Air Force academy.
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  • TS0104TS0104 1530 replies31 threads Senior Member
    @1stTimeThruMom I visited a super-high reach early in the process with my son, hoping it would be motivating, and it was. But as the process went on, and we were looking at more and more stats, I think reality sank in that it truly was a reach, and a high one at that. He didn't get in, and it was the last decision to come in (he applied EA and got deferred), but by then, he had several matches and safeties that he had been accepted to, and also some denials from less reachy schools so that one wasn't a heartbreak or a surprise. There is a value to not only having a well balanced list, but also being strategic with the timing (applying EA when possible and a rolling school early on...then you can see the reality of the EA decisions and still have time to apply to more RD). So anyway, the further we got in the process, the more reality sunk in about the reaches and the need for safeties and matches.

    The problem with EDing a reach is money, and if you are after merit, this doesn't sound like a good plan for you, the parents and payors. I think it's fine for parents to say "no" to an ED reach if there are financial considerations; I know several personally who did this.
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  • 1stTimeThruMom1stTimeThruMom 390 replies9 threads Member
    @TS0104 Thanks for your reply! Well, I read somewhere that the best predictor of college success is where the student applies, not where he is accepted. In other words, the self-visualisation helps. That said, there are some other schools that he is very excited about - he’s wearing his scarlet Phoenix shirt quite a bit, so maybe we will see you there in the future! Congrats to your son and thanks for the advice.
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