This morning my Twitter feed had a flash of retweets and references to the Huffington Post article claiming to be a list of eleven universities for students with “less than perfect” grades. I didn’t like the article at all.

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I don’t have a problem with lists. I am a college counselor at an independent school, and every day I help students create college lists on diverse and customized criteria. With 4,000+ institutions of higher education in the United States, much of the college search and application process is narrowing down.

Even though I didn’t like the article, I did like the list, which included outstanding universities that I often recommend to my students. It isn’t a list of colleges for B students, though. It certainly isn’t a list for average students (such a list does exist). It is a list of outstanding colleges and universities for strong students, in the top 25% of their classes at high schools where a vast majority of students go to 4-year colleges, who might be considering those super-competitive colleges that accept less than 30% of applicants. It’s not a list for B students. Of the 9 universities listed that report GPA of admitted students, only one lists a B average. Six list A- averages and two list B+:

  • Pepperdine University (Ave. SAT: 1835/Average GPA: A-)
  • Fordham University (1865/A-)
  • Syracuse University (1730/A-)
  • Purdue University (1735/A-)
  • Rutgers University (1782/doesn’t report GPA)
  • Michigan State University (1677/B+)
  • University of Iowa (1760/A-)
  • University of Delaware (1797/A-)
  • Baylor University (1812/doesn’t report GPA)
  • SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (1752/B)
  • University of Alabama (1685/B+)

These “Best Colleges” lists are a poor substitute for good college guidance. They perpetuate the idea that some colleges and good and most aren’t, and they ignore what every ethical college counselor knows: college is a match, not a reward.

What’s a high school student in need of college guidance to do? First, don’t buy the college rankings books. Try these books instead. Second, schedule a meeting with your guidance counselor. Visit your counselor often and come prepared with questions, ideas or things you want to work on with your counselor. If your school uses Family Connection, get an account, learn how it works and use the site often. Go to College Board’s excellent college planning web site, Big Future.

Want to read more on this topic? Try these posts:

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