Help a college drop-out convince universities to let her return
January 8, 2010 10:21 AM   Subscribe

I've achieved the passion and motivation to go to college that I never had when I was actually attending, so now, at 24, I want to go back. But my post-high school academic career is just miserable. What's the best route for me to return to a good college without breaking the bank?

I burned myself out on academics by the end of high school and spent nearly six years bouncing in and out of a top-tier university. While my high school career speaks of promise ("gifted" classes, great SAT/ACT scores, attained nearly 60 credits at a local university with a 4.0 there), my college career was absolutely awful to the point where I don't provide a transcript to potential employers unless pushed and have debated leaving it off my resume altogether.

Almost a year ago, I decided to abandon school altogether and throw myself full-tilt into a hobby I'm extremely passionate about, to the point of moving to a different area where there is more opportunity to expand my skills in it. Funny how it works, now that my life is centered around something I truly love I actually want to go back to college so I can pursue a career in that area.

I don't know the best way to do this, though. High-schoolers use their high-school performance to apply to college. Adults with careers use their careers as a jumping-off point to continue their education. College-dropouts with low-level jobs and nothing official to their record as proof that they've changed use . . . ? Complicating matters is that I don't have a lot of money to use towards these classes, so taking a lot of extra classes to prove my worth is not a great option unless there's some good financial aid involved (I don't earn a lot of money so hopefully I'd qualify though).

What are my best options here? Try to transfer my university credits from high school? Take a class or two at a community college? I've thought about calling up the admissions offices of the two universities I'm interested in and talking to them, but I also don't want to jinx anything by prematurely exposing myself as an academic failure.

Additional information: My primary interest is kinesiology and I already know which universities I'd like to apply to. I do not want to move from the area I'm currently living in (South Jersey/Philadelphia).
posted by anonymous to Education (2 answers total)
An acquaintance of mine used community college for precisely this purpose, doing well enough there to transfer to an excellent school. I suggest you visit a local one and speak to an advisor there.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 10:41 AM on January 8, 2010

Congratulations! This is all great news for you! And you're so well situated to really make good on this passion that you've awakened.

Philadelphia is a wonderful place to live and go to school. And NJ is a great place to qualify for student aid. There is an entire state agency set up to assist with that, and several loan options available: the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority. (They're a loan agency, so don't get any misty-eyed ideas that they're there to love you and care for you - but they have the keys to the kingdom, and they're willing to lend them to you for a price.)

First off, I would estimate what you expect to make at the end of your education. That's a very VERY important step, because that will really tell you what kind of debt you can reasonably go into in order to achieve your goals. I can't answer that question, and I'd rather not throw random internet numbers at you about what kinesiologists make. Then you also have to take into account the debt that you already have.

Then a realistic assessment of where you are and where you want to go are important. Sounds like you're being very honest about your marred academic record, and that's a good place to start from. But don't be so hard on yourself. That's not necessarily the end of the story. It might be the end of the story for some places - but certainly not all. Philadelphia has a ton of universities at all different levels. From Camden County College to Rowan U. to Rutgers-Camden to Drexel, Temple, St. Joseph's, Swarthmore, Holy Family, Bryn Mawr, and Penn. You've got options. And each option is going to accept a different level of prior record. Penn is less likely to just take you on the strength of a "Hey look, I screwed up guys..." statement than, say, Temple. And to figure out what you need to do, you really need to know where you're going.

I suspect that you'd do well to submit the strength of your high school academic record coupled with recent proof that you've got your head on straight. Doing that via Rutgers-Camden ($$) or Camden County College ($) is probably your best bet currently.

Then again, it can't hurt to sit down with someone from admissions and talk to them about your specific case on the premise that you are interested in getting into their program and you'd like a realistic assessment of your potential - and a better understanding of what you need to do to make that happen. I was lucky that I got a face-to-face informational interview with an admissions counselor when I did that, but I'd have been just as happy with an email correspondence. I realize those people are overworked, but you wouldn't be completely out of line just asking for that sort of information: it's their job.
posted by greekphilosophy at 10:48 AM on January 8, 2010

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