College Options for Low Achievers

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Options for son who is not a good student

Aug 2005

Our son's in his senior year. He's not a particularly good student, doesn't test well, and is not motivated as an individual learner. However, he just came home from a fantastic summer experience in Asia with a group of teens, traveling, living in a village, doing community service work. It was (by his own admission) the best thing he's ever done and is now sad to be returning to ''normal.'' I'm looking for programs/colleges that can duplicate that group experience and experiential learning, as well as counselors who can assess our son's strengths and suggest some good post-high school choices for him to consider.

We've explored for our son, and we're very impressed with the staff. We've dropped this possibility for a host of reasons, but it's well worth checking out for your son. has hundreds of internships for young people as well as two programs that offer college credit in cooperation with New College - one for a semester and another for a year, and both integrate internships abroad.

We had our son take a series of aptitude tests at the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation, Inc. There are 2 days of testing, I think it was about 2 or 3 hours of testing each day. Located in San Francisco (near BART). Then a week or so later parents and teenager go in for the results. Receive scores on a number of aptitudes (NOT intelligence testing...but what your natural skills and abilities are). You also get a booklet describing the various aptitudes and a 150 page book ''learning to use your aptitudes.'' The testing is pricey ($600), but I thought well worth it. It confirmed and clearly defined some things we ''fuzzily'' knew about our 18 year old son. The counselor gives examples of types of jobs/careers in which the ''testee'' may be happy, AND those which would be a bad fit. This organization has been around for a long time. My husband and his siblings were tested by them in 1970. Good luck.
a concerned parent

This is in response to the parent seeking advice about Alternative colleges and counselors. I know of some great alternatives to the normal colleges. These include: The Evergreen State College, Reed College, Antioch, Hampshire, The New College, and the New School of Social Research. These schools often stress experiential learning, international travel, and putting theory into practice. Many students with labels such as ADD or ADHD often find their learning differences greatly reduced - or even completely gone - when they find school environments which work well with how they learn. It's all about context.

In response to the above, may I say that Reed College, where I just dropped off my Albany High graduate daughter, is not really an alternative college, but rather is an old-style school where the emphasis is on academic achievement. The classes are small (maximum 14 students) and the academic program is rigorous, but the atmosphere is very supportive for the kids and the curriculum caters to a love of learning.

BTW, there are many of us who do not accept ADD/ADHD as illnesses and who feel that such problems are related to students who, for whatever reason, are not being adequately stimulated by their learning activities. A place like Reed College is often a solution to this problem, and does not require drugs! Best, Bob


Not Harvard Bound



Does anyone have recommendations for private college counselors. Hate to have to pay for something I feel the school should offer but it might be money well spent. (We're not Harvard bound, we may be DVC bound, but would like someone able to discuss the options.)

Is your son or daughter 4-year bound eventually? What are his/her interests? Both DVC and College of Alameda have a very high transfer rate to the four-year system. Students can also take courses at multiple community colleges and they will appear on one transcript.

If your son or daughter is going to community college for general requirements, then the place they feel most comfortable will work well. Beyond that, different community colleges have excellent programs that have a specific focus, i.e. Alameda for fashion design, Merritt for horticulture, SF City College for culinary, etc. A few years ago, quite a few students went to Chabot (Hayward) and Ohlone (Fremont) as well as the Peralta District Schools (Vista, Laney, Merritt and Alamenda) and DVC in Pleasant Hill and CCC in Richmond, both which have excellent drama programs.

The nice thing that Vista does in their course schedule that I haven't seen at any other school is letting you know whether a course is acceptable for the UC system or the CSU (Cal State University) system. Their spring schedule can be picked up at 2020 Milvia.

Flora Russ, Berkeley High School Computer Technologies Department