What LACs are good for ill equipped students?

I think you’ve gotten some good suggestions on potential colleges. Now I urge you to open up a bit to the advice you didn’t want to hear. The most important part of a good college list is fit. Understood the No 1 criteria is affordability, but I think you really need to look at whether an LAC and the requirements for intensive reading, writing and class participation is where your child will be comfortable. I worry that you are betting on a magical transformation to motivate your son to want to learn and succeed.

What is he doing now to demonstrate he wants to go to college? Is he working to save money? Writing essays? Taking an academic enrichment class?

My point is spending time finding an easy college for a non-motivated kid may not be addressing the real issue. I would really encourage you to get your son front and center on the college process. He needs skin in the game.


I wonder if the idea was there may be a liberal arts college for the son and twin to attend together.

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The son also has this senior year of high school to get more prepared for college. Even if the high school is not preparing him (although the twin doesn’t seem to have the same issues and yet has the same opportunities), that doesn’t mean the student can’t do some prep. Take a DE course, take the dad’s class at the UC-D, take a Coursera course online (credit or no credit), take a speed reading course. Probably won’t help with the admissions side of it, but the Dad assures us the son doesn’t need admissions help as he will be competitive for merit aid and the dad is just looking to make the transition to college smooth and protect the gpa.

Use this final year to prep for college.


OP: admittedly, this might not be what you and your son are looking for, but seems interesting, so just thought I would mention. On this thread, @bloomfield88 mentioned a program whereby you spend two years at a JC with a guaranteed entry to certain top Virginia schools, provided a GPA threshold is met (may be some other requirements). For Reasonably Bright HS students that would like a 'Second Chance' - #5 by hifidelity).

Sure there are requirements but the flexibility in taking it anytime in the first year or two years or pass/fail would help students like the OP’s son who wants to protect his GPA the first year while figuring out what major, potentially science, to select. And while the CTCL list has a lot of good suggestions, that lack of flexibility along with the rigor would probably not make them a good fit.

Another overgeneralization, just because it’s a college class doesn’t mean it’s rigorous, rather than getting into semantics, there are many counter examples to disprove that statement, e.g. the majors or classes that many athletes take to remain eligible, neither the course, nor the professor in some cases, are rigorous.

@theloniusmonk, it occurs to me that that would be a very interesting discussion for a new thread: Are all colleges and their classes at least roughly equivalent in terms of rigor (many of the for-profits and other types of malfeasance aside, of course)? If you do decide to start a thread on the topic, please tag me or otherwise let me know—it would be a fun discussion, I think.


Wow thanks that’s so helpful!

And encouraging! except for Denison

I’ve gotten somewhat good, or good, NPC results with most of those colleges, except Williamette was wildly too expensive. So maybe I can expect even better for most of them. Fingers crossed.



@UCDProf For what it is worth, I believe the essay on his love of singing but lack of a singing voice could be a standout.

ETA: My comment may no longer make sense in this thread as it appears the post that shared that information was removed.

I don’t think anyone is trying to be discouraging, OP. You no doubt have a fine son and he will launch, hopefully, launch just fine. But it is a good idea to get tuition insurance just in case, as one never knows what the future holds. And several experienced posters are sharing the difficult point that unhooked students from poor schools who lack test scores and need financial aid present a significant risk for private colleges, which are institutionally risk-averse, so broad applications may be advised.

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Having gone through this processes twice in the past three years, I can say with certainty that Net Price Calculators are not very accurate. You may be surprised at the financial aid awarded by some of these LACs. For my child entering college this fall (class of 2025), the best financial offers were from Beloit and Lawrence, which came in at half the net price as some other schools. I really liked Lawrence, but couldn’t convince my kid to go to either of these schools. Instead, Knox College is the preferred destination… for a slightly higher, but still manageable, net price. Together, my kids were accepted to 17 schools and the financial aid awards were all over the place, even with identical FAFSA / CSS Profile data. So my advice is to focus on finding ten or so schools that are most appealing regardless of their NPC results and applying to them. If you feel the need, apply to one or two financial “safety” schools that have favorable NPC results (although remember that there is no guarantee that an actual financial aid award from those schools will be as generous as anticipated from the NPC!). Good luck!


Interesting that both Lawrence and Beloit show up in the top 50 on this list of colleges whose students are receiving merit aid:



Thanks for that! Yeah after an intense round of NPCing it’s time to switch strategies.

Luckily places like Lawrence and Beloit which are high on the list are also low on NPC and in cost reputation on this thread.

I wonder what it was about Lawrence that your kid didn’t like. The campus looks a bit drab and the kids seem like cooped up nerds, which I think is a great social environment. Creative minds with nothing to do and no where to go except making their own fun with each other.

I could see how that wouldn’t appeal though.


When we visited Lawrence in the spring (over a Sunday and Monday), the area of Appleton around the university seemed like a ghost town. There were almost no people out on the streets, and that seemed to be the biggest drawback. Of course, it was in the midst of covid, so I wasn’t as surprised or alarmed by the lack of human activity as my kid was. But for them it was a deal breaker. Nice school, especially for those who are musically inclined. And a fantastic financial aid package. And their is a good size airport with commercial service (e.g., Delta, American) in Appleton, so getting back and forth from school isn’t difficult for most students. Definitely worth applying to.


well you haven’t read all the responses, nor should you.
And of course there will be wide array of applications. I’ve said that a million times. This thread is about one subsection of what we are applying to. (and believe it or not, one person here actually suggested college is not the right thing and we should look into trade schools, on a forum about college).


Thanks DramaMama. I accidentally posted under my daughters account because it was logged in on the computer, so it got removed. I thought she was done with CC but I guess she browsed.

I’m on the fence about this essay about bad singing. It lacks gravitas. It does have one good, erudite joke, and weaves in his philosophy of learning. So if nothing else surfaces then this will be the common app, but since he’ll be writing for UC’s, there will be multiple topics anyway to choose from.

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Well, as a professor, you would know that in order to have above-average grades his freshman year, he needs to out-perform his classmates by dint of ability and or preparation and or hard work. You are well equipped to assess his current levels of ability, preparation and likely work ethic, at least initially, and thus would presumably look for a school with many students like him, or less prepared, if you still wish to maintain that high GPA compared to his peers.

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It is all in the delivery, as they say. Hopefully he can finesse it. I’m partial to whimsical common app essays about unexpected topics.


Coming from a foreign culture with a very robust apprenticeship and trade school sector, I would love to be able to tell you that an apprenticeship with a trade school component would actually be the perfect next step for your son. A very hands on education and training, with immediate gratification by applicability, might be exactly what he needs, with college to build on it after, if he wanted it.

And he’d make money - also helps a lot of kids take things more seriously. I don’t understand how the ”easy college” you’re looking for, with the stated need for more low expectations in his first year to protect his GPA, after the “bad high school” with low expectations took so much of the blame for his being so ill equipped for college, is supposed to magically conjure up the motivation he needs to step up to the plate. A boss, wages and the immediate applicability of what he’d be learning might.

Sadly, it’s not that this is a college website that’s stopping me from recommending this, nor your rudeness about it, but that I can’t imagine you’d find the right program for your son in the US. That path just isn’t offered, nor would it have sufficient prestige to be viable if it were.


See everyone. This is exactly what I’m talking about.