In the eyes of many college admissions officials, the “perfect” applicant is a student who has a top GPA, near-perfect scores on the ACT or SAT tests, and whose family is ready and able to pay full tuition.

Yes, applicants who meet those criteria will not have any problem getting into the colleges of their choice. But let’s face reality. How many students are you teaching or counseling who can meet all those criteria? Chances are, very few. But the good news today is that because colleges are working hard to fill their incoming classes, there are plenty of colleges out there who are eager to admit students who don’t necessarily hit all those high benchmarks.

Many of today’s colleges want your students, just the way they are. And in today’s post, we will explain how “imperfect” students can still be admitted to great colleges of their choice.

Students Who Are Not Good at Taking Standardized Tests

A growing number of excellent colleges – and in some cases, highly selective institutions – are no longer requiring students to take standardized tests. 

They include American University, Bard College, Barnard College, Baylor University, Binghamton University, Boston University, Bowdoin College, Brandeis University, Cal State Long Beach, Carleton College, Colby College, Colorado School of Mines, Connecticut College, Cooper Union, Denison University, DePaul University, Drew University, Drexel University, George Washington University, Goucher College, Hamilton College, Harvey Mudd College, Haverford College, Holy Cross College, Howard University, Ithaca College, James Madison University, Kent State University, Liberty University, Louisiana State University, Marymount Manhattan College, Middlebury College, New York University, Northeastern University, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Randolph College, Rider University, Rutgers University, Sarah Lawrence College, Seton Hall University, Skidmore College, Slippery Rock University, Smith College, St. Lawrence University, St. Olaf College, State Universities of New York, Swarthmore College, Union College, University of California (all locations), University of Cincinnati, University of Iowa, University of Kansas, University of Massachusetts (all locations), University of Redlands, University of Rhode Island, Wake Forest University, Wellesley College  . . . and that’s not the complete list!

For a complete list of test-optional schools, visit

Students Who Want to Attend State Schools, but who Lack the Financial Resources

A growing number of state universities are offering direct admission to students who have previously studied at community colleges in the states where they reside. Be sure to contact state schools in the state where you live to find out whether they offer direct admission from community colleges. 

Just one example? The State University of New York (SUNY) schools have such a program in place. Be sure to check it out. 

Students Who Lack the Financial Resources to Attend College at All

It’s a “brave new world” of opportunity out there for students who need financial aid. 

For example, Pell Grants are a government-funded source of need-based federal financial aid that typically does not have to be repaid, which makes it highly desirable. It is awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to help eligible low-income students pay for college costs, including tuition, fees, room, and board, as well as other educational expenses.

Learn about Pell Grants on the website of the US Department of Education. 

Another option? Apply for one of the Student Research Foundation’s Community Contribution Scholarships. Over the last 20 years, the Student Research Foundation has awarded more than $1 million of these scholarships to deserving students. 

Still another option is to apply to a college that has cut its tuition. In the last few years, a number of colleges – including Drew University, Colby-Sawyer College, and Vermont State University – have reduced the cost of tuition at their schools. 

So the message is that you should call any college that interests you or your students, even if you believe that it is too expensive. The tuition that was being charged last year or the year before may no longer be what the school is charging today. And . . . if you can pay a new, lower tuition? Well, you should. 

National Student Research Study

If you are a high school educator, be sure to have your students participate in our national student research. This study benefits your students, educators, and non-profits working with youth. Fill out our quick and easy survey request form and get involved in this important work!

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