Common College Admissions Myths—Busted

1. Ability to pay is NOT a factor in admissions decisions.

Unfortunately, this is not the case at all colleges. Finding the right college is really about finding the right “fit”. That “fit” should include a financial component. There are literally thousands of colleges in the United States alone, and some are what we call “need-blind”. This means that they separate their knowledge of financial need from the decision, but other schools are considered “need-aware” and will take that into consideration when making an admissions decision. Like any other factor in the college admissions process, it is important to ask the college to learn more about how this may affect your admissions decision.

2. The college application is ONLY for admissions.

It turns out that a lot of colleges and universities use the college application for admissions decisions as well as when determining scholarships and aid packages. Many colleges use a holistic application process (grades & rigor, test scores, essays, activities, talents, skills and demographic information) to determine merit aid packages. As a result, the college application is a really important part of not only admissions, but also affordability.

3. The essays don’t matter.

In the highly competitive environment of college admissions, the essay may be the one thing that separates you from the other applicants. Not only is the essay an opportunity to help pull together your entire application, but it is also an important chance to learn more about yourself and become better prepared to interview. We are often asked if we provide interview assistance (we do!), but really the best preparation for an interview is the work done brainstorming essay topics and drafting responses. Colleges aren’t necessarily looking for earth-shattering stories or traumatic experiences from your essay, but rather your ability to truly know who you are and articulate that in an essay. Our goal is to work on essays with students in the summer, when you have both time and emotional energy to dig in and write a powerful statement about who you are.

4. For admissions and merit money, there are specific activities I should participate in.

Take the time to participate in activities that matter to you. Use these opportunities to impact your community and engage in an authentic way. Finding a couple of things you really enjoy and care about often provides better opportunities for leadership and personal growth. Rather than being a “member” in a bunch of activities, pick one or two that really matter to you and become a leader. The activities you participate in can help you learn more about what career path you would like to follow and help you develop skills (e.g. speaking, technical, business). So, use activities as a way to learn more about yourself, and then use what you’ve learned to make an impact on your community!

5. Test scores no longer matter

Much to the relief of many high school students and their parents, many colleges have gone “test optional”. We all know that students are more than their test scores, so this is really great news. However, the list of colleges is still pretty small. In addition, there is a real possibility if you apply to a “test optional” school that they will want additional application material (e.g. a graded essay from high school). It is a good idea to be prepared by keeping one or two of your graded essays from junior year in case you might choose this route. Finally, read the fine print! Sometimes admissions is “test optional”, but scholarships are sometimes still dependent on those scores.