I Watched My Average Student Get into College, Against All Odds

Excited female teen throws her hand in the air and exclaims in excitement
The inspiring true story of how a student with special education needs got into multiple colleges!

I Watched My Average Student Get into College, Against All Odds

Published June 13, 2023

The inspiring true story of how a student with special education needs got into multiple colleges!
Excited female teen throws her hand in the air and exclaims in excitement

This story was first published in our Paying for College 101 Facebook community. It’s been edited for clarity and flow.

A parent in our Paying for College Facebook Group shared a post about her “average” daughter, and the floodgates opened:

“Since we see so many high stats posts and it can feel overwhelming when you have an average stats kid, I felt like I should share my daughter’s story,” she said, anonymously.

Hundreds of other parents who also have average kids, weighed in.

A Bit of Background

Here’s how the mom described her average daughter:

 “She has a 3.2 GPA and takes one honors class, with no advanced placement courses. She did not take the SAT. She did a little volunteering and participated in one club, one school sport that’s more like a club, and one sport outside of school. She has some hobbies, and she has held a few part-time jobs here and there.

 All the schools recommended or required two to four years of foreign language. She was on an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), a program that ensures students with certain disabilities receive specialized instruction and services, so we decided not to struggle with a language course. I worried myself sick thinking we made a mistake, but it didn’t matter.

 The schools she was accepted to with merit had between 42 and 80 percent acceptance rates. One was 90 percent. There were a mix of large public universities and a few smaller private schools.

 I think when we try to put our children’s mental health, interests, and reasonable expectations first, they will have options — and good options.”

The Not-So-Average Outcome 

After applying to nine schools, our group member’s  daughter was rejected at one, waitlisted at another, and accepted to all others with good merit. One school with only a 42 percent acceptance rate gave her $100,000 in merit over four years.

 If you’re wondering which schools she applied to, they included the University of Delaware, where she was rejected, and the University of Vermont, where she was waitlisted. She was accepted everywhere else, including:

  • Colorado State University
  • Kent State University
  • Lasell University
  • Saint Michael’s College
  • St. Lawrence University
  • University of New Hampshire
  • University of Rhode Island
  • University of Utah 

Proud Parents of Average Kids Respond 

Most parents said they felt hopeful after reading her post. They said it was a good reminder that it’s not just the valedictorians who get accepted to college. 

Marianna P. said, “Congratulations to your daughter. That is incredible. My second oldest has an IEP. He loves performing and singing and I can’t wait until he can be on that track and he can shine like I know he will.”

“Most students are average and it’s nice to see that there are options for all students,” said Karen A.

 “I’ve been tempted to write a similar post,” said Liz M. “It’s not possible that ALL the parents have kids with ‘4. something’ GPAs.. My son wasn’t ready to move away from home, so he’s at a community college and will transfer next year. I want him to have the living-at-college experience when he’s ready. Because of his IEP, I never pushed him to his maximum academic capacity — having friends and lowering stress was more important.”

Jan O. also chimed in with her success story. “Thank you for sharing this! Congrats to your student! I also have a very average student (not average to ME, of course!) and have been super pleased with how our research has panned out. He had very few rejections and is excited to attend an honors program, with gift aid, at a dream school (a mid-level state university three states away). There are so many options for our kiddos out there!”

 Others praised the mom for not pushing her daughter beyond her limits. “Congratulations on offering your daughter a balanced life!” said Daniela C. 

More Parents Weigh in With Lessons Learned

Nothing spawns anxiety like reading about other people’s above-average kids, which is why many parents said they were thrilled to read a post that relieved their stress and reminded them it’s all going to be OK.

Donna P.R. showed overwhelming support with this comment. “There is a college for everyone! No matter what your child’s stats are or college stats. Your child needs to be happy and find their place, and, I believe they will.”

 “[Sometimes] I read all the overachieving students’ parents’ posts and worry my kids won’t have a shot,” said Michele K. “This post allows me to breathe easier tonight.”

 Kimberly G. said she felt the same. “My oldest is at Cornell University but my youngest has an IEP, severe anxiety, and will be applying test-optional,” she said. “This is exactly what I needed to hear since the application process next year will be totally different than it was the first time around.”

 In the end, Cathy S. summed it up perfectly when she said, “This gives me hope!”


Use College Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

10 Reasons to Consider Smaller Schools with High Acceptance Rates

12 Assumptions to Avoid When Choosing a College

Colleges With High Acceptance Rates




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