Question: I have been in and out of school for a few years now. My GPA is NOT good, but I finally have figured out what I want to do with my life. I don't meet the admission requirements for a transfer student. Can I just "forget" to mention my previous college and apply as a non-traditional student or is there a way for the new school to figure out I have a jaded college past?
Two things come to mind with your question:
1. Starting over is always nice, especially when you have truly matured in heart, mind, and soul and know the direction you want to go.
2. Trying to hide your past by not mentioning it usually never works perfectly as a tactic.
It is best to decide what colleges interest you in terms of the programs they offer and then be honest about yourself, your background, and what you have done in the meantime to refocus your life. Tell your story, but be prepared to prove that you are, indeed, focused on your education and your future. EVERY college and university has students with your story or situation, believe it or not. "Getting In" depends upon your level of commitment, and convincing someone that you are worth the surface "risks" inherent with your previous academic record.
If you have been out of college for less than five years, and received financial aid from any state or federal souce, be aware that most colleges will ask you for financial aid transcripts (records of information you and the college filed on your behalf in conjunction with any aid applied to your account in the past few years). See? Even if you did not present your academic challenges to the admission office in terms of transcripts and grade reports, you'll have to "fess up" and present this information if you apply for any form of federal or state-level financial aid, and most institutional forms of aid as well. Eventually, you "get caught," so to speak. Admit your previous misdirection, show the imporvements and current commitment level, and move on from there.
One idea: Take classes at the community college nearby, take at least 15 credits of solid academic coursework, and get very good grades. If the college has a Phi Theta Kappa program (the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society of two-year colleges). PBK is the oldest honor society in America, founded in the mid-1700s. (The two-year college model is patterned after this but, obviously, much younger!) PTK students in two-year colleges are generally those with grade point averages of 3.75 or greater. Showing promising academic work and staying on track shows four-year colleges that you are not a risk but a serious student who can do the work. Always check with the colleges you are looking to transfer to, making sure that what you take transfers over to some course or prescribed elective so you are not wasting any more semesters at college with no forward progress to show for your efforts..