What are the most accepted or exaggerated myths about the college admissions process?

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Our counselors answered:

What are the most accepted or exaggerated myths about the college admissions process?

Ralph Becker
Owner & Director Ivy College Prep LLC

Admissions options for fall still exist even after May 1st...

One exaggerated myth is if you are not admitted into a college by May 1st, your chances of attending college in the fall, or obtaining financial aid should you gain admittance, are low.  The ‘NACAC Space Availability Survey Results,’ contain 279 colleges still accepting freshmen or transfers, with most of the listed schools also offering financial aid and on-campus housing.  St John’s College (Annapolis, MD. & Santa Fe, NM), which features a Great Books core curriculum and places over 85% of its graduates into graduate school is on the list; and, the list is updated and online till July 1st. 

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection

Tight, concise writing is really much more effective...

The longer the essay the better: I have seen students’ essays that run close to ten pages. Admissions offices do not have the time or inclination, even if the story is riveting to you, to spend that much time on one essay. The essay needs to impress the reader with all your many accomplishments: NO. Your essay should impress the reader with your personal qualities: compassion, responsibility, perseverance. Often the smaller “slice of life” stories work best. The bigger the words used the better: Again, filling your essay with “SAT” words can be a big mistake, especially if you use them incorrectly.

Howard Verman
Senior Associate Strategies For College

Know how to pay for it before applying...

One of the biggest myths for parents is: "Just get into the best college you can and we'll figure out how to pay for it." Unless there is a vast sum of money available to parents to pay for college, thorough knowledge of what the expected family contribution (EFC) would be for both the FAFSA and CSS formulae are essential. Having a solid pre-application financial strategy in place can be crucial in determining which colleges a student should apply to, thusly avoiding the heartbreak of students getting into their top choice schools and then parents informing them that they can't afford the total cost.

Carol Morris
Regional Director of Admissions Southern Methodist University

Use any form the school allows, but proofread!...

There is a common misperception that schools give preference to certain application forms (their own, for example) over others such as the Common Application. If a school lists a form as acceptable, take their word for it! As a reader, I am quickly scanning for specific information and rarely even notice which form is being used. However, the idea that we are not paying close attention to the information itself IS a myth! Misspellings, poor grammar, unanswered questions, and accidental references to wanting to attend a different college than the one who to whom it was sent are definitely noted, especially at smaller and more selective schools.

Jill Greenbaum
Founder, Independent College Counselor Major In You

Deep seated myths of the college admissiosn process...

The three most accepted myths I have witnessed over the years are these: 1)  Believing that a big name school-one of the Ivies, Big Ten, or local favorite-is the best school choice; and ignoring your individuality-strengths, learning and social needs, wants and challenges. 2)  Choosing a teacher to write a recommendation letter because you think the teacher likes you. The teacher needs to have witnessed your growth as an individual over time.  They have to truly know you. 3)  Thinking that being college eligible is the same as being college ready.  Being college ready involves all of you:  knowing/managing/taking care of yourself, managing your time/classes/studying/socializing, and money, school/grades... everything!

Francine Block
President American College Admissions Consultants

3 Myths debunked...

SATs/ACTs are not really all that important, that is what the college rep said when they visited my school. The coach really wants me and says he can get me in, my academics are less than stellar, but that’s not going to matter. I do not need to visit schools now before I apply, I will wait and see where I get in and then check out the campus.

Scott White
Director of Guidance Montclair High School

Debunked myths about essays and deadlines...

Better essays are ones about big ideas, which is false; the more an essay particularizes the better. The essay topic really matters; it doesn't, it’s about the writing. An essay will make or break an application; not true, they are really tie-breakers at best. You can't take November SAT's for a November 1st or 15th deadline, which is false; you can almost everywhere. You only have to post mark your materials that are mailed by the deadline: false. You need to post mark if you get it out well before the deadline too. Lastly, colleges will STILL consider applications received on time if supporting materials are in just past the deadline.

Jeannie Borin
Founder & President College Connections

A myth by definition is something that is not real...

With summer upon us, many students are convinced they need to travel to a third world country to do their community service or attend a program at an elite college to increase their chance of acceptance. Neither of these scenarios is accurate. Students seem to think that they need to add countless activities to their activity resumes when in fact college officers prefer to see fewer activities with more depth and continuity. Families rely too heavily on publicity and rankings. If they haven’t heard of the college, it can’t be good. Put your antennas up and explore the thousands of colleges out there!

Marjorie Shaevitz
Admissions expert, author, speaker www.adMISSION POSSIBLE.com

Learning diabilities, essay content, and last minute APP's...

MYTH: To reveal that I have a learning disability will hurt my admissions chances. REALITY:  For colleges to clearly understand your academic background and abilities, it’s critical to describe and explain your learning issues.  MYTH: The more intellectual an essay is the more impressed college admissions people will be. REALITY: Effective essays are snapshots of who you are and what you are all about. MYTH: If I wait until the last minute to complete my applications, I will be better focused, sharper and more creative. REALITY: “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” Abraham Lincoln

James Goecker
Vice President for Enrollment Management Rose Hulman Institute of Technology

testing is everything?!@#$

With over 25 years in higher education, I am still amazed that the myth that the SAT or ACT score is the single most important aspect of an applicant's file is still around. While the tests have a place and purpose in the admission process, it is a very poor substitute for the high school transcript. More can be determined about a young man or woman's aptitude and preparation for higher education from a transcript than will ever be determined by an examination result.