Preparing for College

Next Step After Expulsion

Question: I am a high school junior and just got expelled from a private school. I would still like to be admitted to as good a college as possible. Which is the best next step for me--to try to get into another private high school or to get my GED, enroll in a community college and try to get straight A's?

Regardless of which route you take, college applications will ask if you were ever suspended or expelled in high school, and you will have to answer truthfully. The story behind your expulsion will probably figure more prominently in your admission outcomes than the path you take now.

Admission committees will evaluate what you did that led to this extreme punishment and attempt to determine if you learned enough from the experience to move on and succeed in college.

If you have not done so already, I urge you to read the College Confidential "Experts Roundtable" on this very subject. You'll find it at You will see that admission officials tend to be more forgiving of certain types of offenses than others. Those they consider youthful follies (beer, marijauna in minimal amounts) are usually more quickly overlooked than acts that put others in harm's way or acts of dishonesty or bigotry.

Both options you suggest would enable you to move on with your life and make a fresh start, and both have pros and cons in terms of attaining your college goals.

If you attend another private school, conceivably it would be one with admission standards low enough to admit a student who's been expelled elsewhere in the middle of his junior year. Perhaps it will even be a school with a reputation for taking on problem cases. If this is so, then that certainly won't work in your favor. If, on the other hand, you are able to matriculate at a reputable private school and turn your life around in just one year, proving that you can be a productive member of a school community, then--based on the references from your new school--you may have a shot at the colleges you hope to attend. This, of course, will also depend on how "high" you are aiming. The most elite colleges that can have their pick of every student in the country will not--in most instances--pick an applicant with a record like yours. But if you get your life back on track, you will certainly have some college choices.

On the other hand, if you get your GED and then do very well in a community college, you'll have truly made a fresh start in a very different environment and you will also be able to apply to college as a transfer student. With the exception of a tiny handful of hyper-selective colleges, most schools are more forgiving of past foibles when admitting transfers than they are with freshmen.

However, in order to give you better advice, I would have to know more about the offense that led to your expulsion. Whichever road you take, it will be important that you not only earn good grades but also that you participate in school or local activities that give you a chance to demonstrate that you do have strength of character to contribute to whatever college takes you on.