Colleges use various methods of encouraging potential rejects to apply, and I was witness to some of them on a recent visit to a local high school. I was there to talk to the career counselor. She wasn't in, but I happened into a room in which an admissions officer from a local public university - I won't say which one because they are both equally guilty, but if you'll note my location you'll see which two I've narrowed it down to - was meeting with a group of prospective applicants. Among the statements she made:
"We look at your whole application."
"We really look for people who have made A's and B's, but we admit people with bad grades every year. It really depends on your story." (Followed, of course, by an anecdote of a kid who failed six courses, but got admitted anyway.)
"Yes, we consider your test scores, but you are more than just your score."
I had to bite my tongue. What I really wanted to do was jump in and say, "Yes, they will admit you with substandard grades or test scores. IF you are 6 and half feet tall and have a terrific 3-point shot. Or IF you are a Hispanic Buddhist who will be the first in her family to go to college. Or IF your family has donated money to the school in excess of seven figures."
If you want to see if you are likely to get into a school, go to a website like Cappex. It's free, but you have to sign up. They have admission trend scattergrams that plot on a grid all of the students signed up with them who applied to a particular school according to their GPA's and test scores.
Here is a sample:
See where the blue and green dots are? Notice those stray blue and green dots that represent students with low test scores and/or low GPA's? Those are the basket-players, the kids of big donors, etc. They are NOT the applicants who are generally described as "a good kid." As in, "You know, he's just a good kid." If nothing about you is VERY unusual (in a good way) then you are not destined to be one of the stray dots. Consider whether to apply accordingly.