Myth # 1: The college application process starts during a student’s senior year.
The Reality: The college application process begins during a student’s 9th-grade year. (It could be earlier for students who are taking high school courses in middle school.) From 9th–11th grade, a student should be building what will go into their college application with their academic coursework, extracurricular activities, part-time employment, leadership experience, etc.
During this same time, a student should be exploring possible majors and research different colleges to understand what they are looking for in an applicant. A student’s 12th-grade year is when you take summation of your entire high school experience and apply to college.
Myth # 2: Being involved in tons of different extracurricular activities will allow your application to stand out.
The Reality: The days of the “well-rounded” student with a long list of extracurricular activities are over. Admissions Officers are now looking to build their classes with individuals who have deeply explored one or two areas of genuine interest and have demonstrated leadership in those same areas.
Myth # 3: Recommendations from well-known people enhance your chances of getting accepted.
The Reality: Recommendation letters are meant to provide insight into who you are through the words of people who know you personally. If the person writing the letter does not have much to say about you and your character, their letter doesn’t really add value.
Instead of begging to receive a letter from the actor, Michael B. Jordan, who happens to be an acquaintance of your distant cousin’s neighbor; you should work to get genuine recommendations from your closest teachers, employers, or mentors.
Keep in mind that every college differs with the number of recommendation letters that can be submitted and who can write them. Make sure that you check each colleges’ requirements.
Myth # 4: College application essays don’t really matter.
The Reality: The essay is a very important part of the application. By the time you are applying to colleges, your GPA, and SAT/ACT scores are pretty much set. All the other information in your application is about you, but your essay is the only thing that speaks to who you are. It’s your thoughts, life perspectives, and voice all on paper.
The amount of weight placed on the essay will vary from each college. However, if it is a requirement, then it is important to use this opportunity wisely.
Myth # 5: Applying Early Decision always means you have a better chance of getting in.
The Reality: Applying Early Decision (Binding) does not always help your chances of getting into a school. While colleges do like to hear that you are willing to commit yourself to them through a signed agreement, they will still save spots for the top performing applicants and wait to see who else applies later to fill their incoming freshmen class. It may be still possible that even if you apply early to a reach school, you could still be deferred, waitlisted, or even rejected.
The best way to use the Early Decision option to your advantage is when you are right on the line as a candidate, and that commitment can tip you over the edge.
Myth #6: A strong essay will fix any problems with your academic profile.
The Reality: Grades are a predictive indicator in gauging a student’s possible college academic success. While good writing is important, it will not make up for poor academic performance. Admissions Officers may actually wonder why such a good writer performed so badly and will presume that a student will continue with the same poor academic performance.
MYTH # 7: Only students with high GPAs receive merit scholarships.
The Reality: Students with average GPAs may receive merit scholarships too. Of course, having a higher GPA will qualify you for more opportunities. It is best to review the admissions or financial aid website to determine what merit scholarship opportunities you may be on target for.
Bonus – Myth # 8: Don’t apply to private colleges. They are just way too expensive.
The Reality: The published “sticker price” of private colleges is intimidating. However, many students pay less than the sticker price because of the merit aid and tuition discounts. Private colleges also have healthy endowments and strong commitments to helping students afford their colleges. The most selective private colleges generally offer only need-based aid, but their definition of “needy” includes incomes many consider affluent. Our advice – Don’t take college off the table because of the sticker price. Apply for financial aid and then determine if a college is affordable.
To see an estimate of what a particular college might cost your family, check out the US Department of Education’s Net Price Calculator.
Have you come across any myths during your college admissions journey? We want to hear from you. Leave your comments below.
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