Applying to College – Seven Myths Debunked

Face it, searching for and College Selection Process that is best suited to your needs, interests and potential can be a difficult challenge. But that challenge can often be exacerbated by a lack of well-grounded information about what the college selection process is all about. These seven beliefs make up a portion of the most misleading ideas that can lead to poor results and a disheartening college experience. Let us debunk them.

Myth #1: The only private colleges worth applying to are the Ivy League colleges.

The eight Ivy League colleges are among the most selective schools in the nation, but they may not offer, academically, socially, or otherwise, what you really want. Besides, did you know that the “Ivy League” is simply an athletic league like the Big 10 or the Pac 10? Certainly the Ivy League is known for its academic quality, but is does not have a monopoly on academic quality. Often, students and parents fail to identify the intrinsic value of any school, especially Ivy League schools: the students. While it is true that resources and technology can make a difference in opportunities or access to advanced learning, it is even truer that your personal determination to grow as a student and a professional is the real secret to success. No matter where you are, your own work ethic and internal drive will determine whether or not you will be success. Even if you begin as a Yale Bulldog, a lack of solid character will eventually catch up to you.

Myth #2: Colleges really do not look at senior year grades.

All college admissions committees analyze not only senior year grades in the first semester, but also the degree of difficulty of the senior year course of study. As for the second semester grades, if there is a significant change (decline) in academic performance from February to June (spring semester), the college that originally accepted you might require summer school work, put you on probation for the first semester of college, or rescind your acceptance on the grounds that you are not the same strong student they originally admitted. Most colleges will not officially accept you until they see your final transcript. Since that arrives in July or August after high school graduation, there are serious consequences for you if your admission offer is rescinded one month before the fall term begins.

Myth #3: It is important to participate in as many extra-curricular activities as possible to impress college admission people because it “looks good.”

Colleges are “looking” for quality of involvement, not simply quantity. They want a well-rounded student body made up of students who are passionately interested in particular activities, those who have not spread themselves so thin that their extra-curricular commitments are superficial. Colleges prefer, for example, the student solely dedicated to being the yearbook editor over the student who has some participation in 10 different activities. This is what is called “productive follow-through.”

Myth #4: It is better to go to a big university that is well known than to a small college that few people have heard of.

This generalization about large versus small schools is quite misleading. While a large university with wide name recognition (such as UCONN or Duke) may be ideal for many students, others may perform better in a smaller, more personalized environment (such as Oberlin College or Connecticut College). Just because your next door neighbor has not heard of a particular college does not mean the school is not prestigious. Graduate schools and employers make it their business to know which colleges turn out the brightest and most capable graduates, and the size of the school has very little to do with it. It is important to define the things you want in a college – to understand yourself, not to be unduly influenced by the opinions of others.

Myth #5: Colleges receive too many admissions essay to read them all.

Private college admission officers read personal essays with great care. Writing about yourself in a way that makes you unique is the one of the most significant things you can do to overcome lackluster test scores and a mediocre school record. Do not wait until just before the deadline to rush to write your essay just to get the application in the mail on time. A well-written essay can tip the scales in your favor; the personal essay can make a difference.

Myth #6: Colleges do not have enough money to give families financial aid.

Financial aid continues to be more readily available than you might think in the forms of grants, loans, work-study, and merit scholarships. Read the financial aid section of the schools you will be applying to, attend evening financial aid sessions at your high school this fall and winter, and investigate websites such as FastWeb or FinAid.

Myth #7: If I make the wrong decision about college, my life will be ruined.

While it is important to realize the significance of your college choice, take it seriously, and spend time on all the steps of the college process, you should remember to keep things in perspective. If you find, in spite of an informed choice, that you are not well suited to your college, you can transfer to another college. So be conscientious about the selection process. Also, never underestimate life as a journey filled with experiences. Often, what may seem like a mistake can be the key to something great when you apply a positive attitude. Remember the key to your success comes from within – your determination and desire is what must be spot on, not your college.



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