The Late Bloomer's Guide for Getting into a Great College

A late bloomer is a smart student whose goals, ambitions and talents are a bit slow to develop. But we also know that late bloomers tend to catch up, and even speed past, other smart students. Just look at Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. They were all late bloomers who wrote their names in the pages of history.

The problem is, the American system of college admissions is not set up to value late bloomers. If you are one of them, you know the deal. The students who stayed on the fast track in high school sped by you and claimed seats at top colleges.

But chances are that if you didn’t excel in high school, it wasn’t your fault. Maybe your high school just wasn’t interesting. Maybe your family’s economic situation, or a parent’s illness, forced you to take a job during school, and you just couldn’t maintain top grades. Maybe you found it hard to study. Or maybe it just took you a little time to “get your act together” and discover that learning can be interesting.

But the point is, it doesn’t matter now. There is no reason to beat yourself up if you were a late bloomer in high school. You can still graduate from a good college – probably even a great one – by exercising one of the following plans.

Plan One: Attend a College that Recognizes Your Unique Value

Schools like that are out there. They will look at your life, your high school record, your potential and your passions – and they will make a place for you. The problem is, such colleges are generally pretty expensive. And there’s another problem too – many of them are small liberal arts schools that don’t offer a lot of financial aid.

One very successful book, Colleges that Change Lives by Loren Pope, is all about these schools, which include Agnes Scott College, Allegheny College, Antioch College, Earlham College, Hampshire College, Whitman College and the College of Wooster.

So if you are well-heeled late bloomer – and don’t be ashamed if you are – that could be the route for you.

Plan Two: Go to a Community College and Transfer

People tend to look down on community colleges, which is something you definitely shouldn’t do if you’re a late bloomer. Be sure to check out any and all of them that are operating in your area.

Community colleges offer significant benefits to late bloomers. Often, you only need a high school transcript to get in. Courses are offered in the evenings, to accommodate students who need to mix work with classwork. Costs are generally reasonable – as little as $100 per credit hour if you live in the county where the college is located.

But here’s the best part. Most all community colleges have strong track records of transferring their students into larger state institutions. You can attend a community college for two years in New Jersey, for example, then transfer to Rutgers. Or you can attend one in California, then transfer to UCLA or another state school. So that will put you in the desk alongside all the fast-trackers who zoomed past you in high school.

The trick is, you have to get very good grades. But now that you have bloomed, you’re probably ready to do that anyway. No problem, right?

Plan Three: Take College Courses Online

As you already know, dozens and dozens of colleges of all kinds are now offering college courses online. And you have several options to consider.

You can enroll in a for-profit college or university, for example. But tread carefully, because online for-profit universities can charge a lot for courses, and you could graduate with a ton of debt.

But other options are appearing for more economical study online. Community colleges, for example, are expanding their range of online courses.

Be sure to check out StraighterLine too. StraighterLine is not a college, it is a company that offers top-quality, credit-worthy college courses online for prices that dramatically undercut the cost of courses at for-profit online universities. At StraighterLine, you can take college courses for as little as $99 each – and you can complete your freshman year’s worth of core curriculum courses for less than $1,300. Courses have been approved for college credit by the American Council on Education Credit, which means that the credit hours they earn will be welcomed by hundreds of colleges.

StraighterLine has also made agreements with a growing list of Partner Colleges – accredited colleges that accept students who have completed StraighterLine courses. There’s no need to take the SATs, write a college essay, or jump over all the obstacles that most college applicants face. This could be the most direct path of all to college for late bloomers.

Late Bloomer No More . . .

When the day comes when you are walking up to accept your diploma, you can pretty well forget the fact that you were once a late bloomer. It won’t matter anymore, because the field has been leveled. You are now ready to compete with anyone, anywhere, and create the life you want.