Help finding fits for an "alternative" student?

I’m a current junior/rising senior and recently started the college search, it’s been challenging trying to figure out what kind of school would be suitable for me, perhaps you guys could recommend me schools that would actually want a student like me!
I have struggled with mental health and family related challenges most of my life and in high school it got a lot worse so I have been in therapeutic schools since mid freshman year, the type of school I attend is REALLY small, I mean 40 or so kids total so there’s no chances to take any AP or honors courses and I have no foreign language credits. I’m worried these two factors will hurt me in admissions to any LAC I’ve been interested in. Next year I do plan to do dual enrollment at a local community college which will hopefully help.

Based on the information below what would a “fit” be?

  • I’m located in the northeast and would like to stay somewhat around here.
  • A school under 5,000 students would be preferable.
  • My gpa is unclear because I received just a notice of passing for a lot of my freshman and sophomore year classes but for most of sophomore year and all of junior year I’ve had solely A’s and B’s in my classes, last time I saw my gpa was before junior year and it was 3.1, if I had to estimate what it is now I’d say 3.5.
  • I have not taken the SATS yet but plan to over the summer, I don’t want to rely on test scores for college admission so a test optional school is preferable.
  • I have an IEP and documented emotional disability, I would need mental health support on campus.
  • As for extra-curriculars all I have is book club which I will be the student leader of next year and a good amount of volunteer hours at a local farm and local animal shelter.
  • I’m interested in pursuing a major in the humanities or arts, I’ve thought about social science, philosophy, visual arts.
  • I’m attending a summer intensive at MassArt this summer which is like a pre-college art school program, but I’m not really interested in solely an art school, preferably a liberal arts college with a good art program.
  • I toured Marlboro college and really liked it but it felt a little too small and isolated, I’m also interested in Bard college.


Most high school students’ most important constraint on college choice is money-related. Talk to your parents to find out what they will contribute for your college costs, and run the net price calculator on the web site of every college that you are interested in.

I agree that the post is missing the all important money element.

Sorry I forgot to add that, single income home of about 60k per year so financial aid is going to be needed, especially to any school like the ones I mentioned. I am not sure how much my parents can afford to contribute per year as many aspects go into that.

Bennington (not too much bigger than Marlboro) Hampshire, if it ends up staying open. A family friend with a similar profile is attending Flagler. That and Goucher are far but might be worth a look. Sarah Lawrence would be a reach, but may be of interest.

Look at your local schools that tend to cater to students in the area and see what they have to offer. You will need to get financial info from both your Custodial Parent and your non customs parent. If you are looking at schools that require the CSS PROFILE financial aid application as well as FAFSA.

Paying for college is a big deal thing. Hardly any colleges guarantee to meet need as defined by the FAFSA, how much your parents are ready to pay for your college is important. You have little control or knowledge over what colleges will be giving you in terms if financial aid or scholarships. Try to get that sure thing list going first, then look into the schools with bigger chance elements to them.
I am throwing the name Albright College in PA to you because it does meet need as defined by FAFSA. Take a look at its NPC and get a feel for its cost.

I would suggest as you already do: CC and then transfer to local school that has agreement with CC.
Take it easy and slow. Start with fewer classes. Do not go full time. 2-3 classes a semester and part time job will be much better for you. Yes it will take longer, but who cares? At the end it is the same diploma. Good luck.

Your IEP will end with high school graduation. You’ll need to set up a new plan and arrange services with the school’s program. Some are good, others not so much.

Married parents with one income, or divorced parents?

If divorced, there can be financial aid complications:

Where do your counselors and teachers suggest you start to look? They are likely to have some ideas about where their graduates have been most successful in college.

MA College of Liberal Arts if you’re at MA resident. It should be affordable with Pell Grant/Loan/Work Study/Summer Job\small parental contribution/merit.

They offer a discount for Arts Management majors.

My son’s friend attended a similar type of school that you describe and he wound up (after a couple of false starts) at Sarah Lawrence, but his family could afford it. Another student we know from that same school is currently at a SUNY and doing amazingly well.

In your situation, I also recommend you start at CC. There are residential CCs if you want a typical college experience. Your situation is going to be challenging. Four year colleges might want to see that you can prove yourself before they admit you. It’s also a more affordable option, so you need to discuss with your parents some hard numbers about what they can afford.