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

College Search

Our counselors answered:

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

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.

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.

Joanne Levy-Prewitt

Community college is a great option for many high schooler graduates

Myth: Community college is a consolation prize for students who aren’t academically ready for a four-year college. Truth: Community colleges can help students learn important academic and organizational skills that will prepare them to succeed in upper division courses at four-year colleges. Myth: Community colleges deprive students of the rich social experiences that a four-year college can provide. Truth: Community College students can take advantage of theater, athletics, clubs or student government, in many cases with no prior experience. Myth: Community Colleges are a dead-end. Truth: The best way to ensure a successful transfer to a four-year college is to enter community college with clearly defined goals and a well-crafted transfer plan.

Mary Ann Willis

Ignore sound bites--reality matters

3 Myths: No one gets in college. No one can afford college. College degrees don’t matter. Debunked: Almost 70% of applicants are admitted (NACAC). Affordable options are available. Education Pays (The College Board) explains the benefits of an educated populace.  Those with higher education are: less likely to be dependent on government programs, more likely to be healthy and have  healthier life styles, more likely to have insurance, less likely to be unemployed, more likely to vote and volunteer, going to make more money, on average, over a lifetime than those without a degree. Dream big. Work hard. Your future is in your hands.

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.

Helen Cella

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

The importance of extra circular activities.

Erin Avery
Certified Educational Planner Avery Educational Resources, LLC

Myth Busters

I believe wholeheartedly that too many students compile a list of colleges to which to apply based on "quality of life". You may be that student who says, "I'm just a warm weather person." While that may be true, and good on you for identifying that, silly junior, college is for studying for a degree! In the media, we are fed myths, lies really, about what college "should" be like: most involve togas and red Solo cups, as well as mutual hair-holding for turns over the toilet. Allow me to bust that myth: choose colleges first and foremost based on the academic offerings and fit, the mission and culture of the school and the social scene will undoubtedly follow. Any time you get hundreds of 18-22 year olds living together, fun in inevitable!

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.