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?

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.

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.

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

Accepted Myths

You need a nearly perfect SAT or ACT score to get into an elite school. Nonsense! Top colleges are flooded with students having great standardized test scores. Once an applicant shows he or she is in the game, other evaluation factors take over. When choosing between students from the same high school, the best all-around candidate will get the nod over the others. This is not necessarily true. Depending on the particular year and the profile of applicants, a particular candidate may be selected (over others) because of a unique interest, talent or demographic. Colleges are favoring guys over gals to even up the balance. Be careful not to over-generalize. There are so many factors that go into admissions decision, and gender is one of many that may or may not tip the scales. Colleges favor students who can pay tuition rather than obtain financial aid. For the most part, admissions decisions are made separately from financial aid decisions (i.e., need-blind admissions). This is sometimes true with transfers, however, depending on the college.

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

Early decision

most private schools used such strategy to secure seats. Very few public schools provide systematic approach to admissions. If you are qualify for needs based aid, you should not worry about your aid if accepted.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

Forget the MYTHS! Get the FACTS!

One of the most pervasive myths regarding college admissions in America is that it is absolutely impossible to get into your first choice school these days! You have probably heard about all of the perfect students/athletes/musicians/etc. who have been rejected by every school on East Coast, right? Well -- as the kids say, "whatever." According to a survey of college freshmen by UCLA, 79% of students said that they were accepted into their first choice school. That's almost 80%! Instead of relying on word of mouth, urban myths and parental paranoia -- get the facts! You can find out more about UCLA's annual survey here: http://www.heri.ucla.edu/ Also -- check out the National Association for College Admissions Counseling's 2011 State of College Admission report at http://www.nacacnet.org/AboutNACAC/PressRoom/2011/Pages/SOCA2011.aspx According to NACAC -- the average rate of admission for the colleges participating in the report was over 65%! That's right! Over 65%! Once you get the FACTS about college admissions -- you'll see that you won't need to get so stressed out. Knowledge is power!

Tyler Burton
President Burton College Tours

That there is only one good school for you.

Students who become fixated on one school as the end all be all for the rest of their lives have not been educated about fit. When I take students on a Burton College Tour, I teach them how to determine the elements of a good academic, social and financial fit for themselves. Students who learn how to identify the aspects of a good fit and how it pertains to them are able to build a list of schools that are all right for the student.

Ellen erichards@ellened.com
Owner Ellen Richards Admissions Consulting

Admissions competition: fact or fiction?

ormer president of Mercy College Lucie Lapovsky has a unique perspective on the admissions process – unique in that she doesn’t buy the headlines and stories that are scaring students and parents alike into thinking that the college admissions process has become more prohibitively competitive than ever before. The current school of thought would have the public believe that more students than ever are applying to colleges, but also, more students than ever are getting rejected by colleges. It seems that the typical applicant today is a high-achieving, almost too well-rounded student who applies to many institutions, is almost invariably denied by their top choice and has to settle for a safety school. Ms. Lapovsky is sick of it. According to her, that picture is not representative of the vast majority of students (though it does ring true for a small percentage in wealthy suburban areas applying to truly selective colleges) or their admissions experience. Now an educational consultant and researcher, Ms. Lapovsky wants to debunk the competition myth that is sending so many students and parents into a tailspin every spring. She chose to do it with numbers. In the fall of 2006 and the spring of 2007, Ms. Lapovsky surveyed 750 high school seniors, each semester asking them pertinent questions about their plans for higher education. Some of the more interesting findings included the fact that the idea of students applying to a slew of colleges, had actually been blown way out of proportion. Less than one percent of the students surveyed wound up applying to more than ten colleges, whereas nearly half applied to only 4 or more. Average Number of Colleges Students Planned to Apply to and Actually Applied to Number of Colleges Percentage Who Planned to Apply, Fall 2006 Percentage Who Actually Applied, Spring 2007 1 7% 22% 2 10% 15% 3 25% 19% 4 or more 58% 44% Also debunked? The myth that students are getting rejected across the board from their first choices. In fact, the majority of students surveyed (88 percent) who applied to college immediately after high school, were admitted to their first choice and safety schools. And overall, Lapovsky and her peers discovered that students are accepted by 81 percent of the colleges to which they apply. Proportion of Students Accepted by Their First-Choice College Percent Accepted at First Choice (Including Off Wait List) All Students 88 Asian/Pacific Islander 80 African American 84 White 90 Hispanic 84 All other 83 Finally, the study went a long way toward dispelling the stigma that can follow application to a 2-year college. The study showed that despite the prevailing opinion that most students who apply to community colleges have no other options or chose not to apply anywhere else, 17 percent of students who attended these schools applied at five or more other institutions, and 70 percent of those who attended community colleges after having been accepted at other institutions, wound up accepting a spot at the school with the lowest tuition – almost exclusively two year institutions. It is clear that students who are attending these colleges are taking the price of admission into heavy consideration.

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures


I believe that the most accepted "myth" about the admissions process is that one has to go to a "brand name" college. I just read a blog by a student, Benjamin Platt: Success is not spelled H-A-R-V-A-R-D. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/07/the-college-commandments-_n_1079571.html. I recommend parents and students read it. It is certainly a myth that there are only a few colleges worth going to in the USA. There are over 3,000 colleges in this country! As Platt says in his blog, "Plenty of important people went to Ivy League schools. Plenty of important people did not." Don't buy into the "bumper sticker" mentality. Look for substance, not just a name.

Benjamin Caldarelli
Partner Princeton College Consulting, LLC

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

The level of opportunity and competition to go to college are both exaggerated. Some people like to say there are 3000 colleges, many of whom have open enrollments. The real number of colleges of high and even modest quality is significantly less. On the other hand it is true that there are a few colleges that accept less than ten percent of applicants, but this is the exception. There are many colleges of very high quality that accept students at much higher rates. Another myth is that the cost of college is skyrocketing. While the sticker prices are rising, the reality is that the cost of college is very progressive. Wealthier families are paying more, but for a majority of Americans the cost of tuition is zero due to federal or institutional subsidy.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

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

Probably the biggest myth is that the college admissions process is so competitive that that an average student will never get into a good school and even the stars are unlikely to go where they want. It is critical to realize that there are literally thousands of colleges and universities in the United States with each having their own set of admissions standards and different programs. The result is that there can be a home for every qualified, college ready applicant. Once a prospective student gets past the myths, the scuttle butt, and the outside perceptions and focuses on finding the school that is right for them, the process will not only be much smoother, but the likelihood of it ending in a productive and rewarding way is much greater.