As a counselor working with high school students for more than 20 years, I have seen many families being led in the wrong direction in college admissions by some common myths. I hope to set the record straight on a few of them.
Myth 1 - Having a high GPA assures you a spot in the college of your choice. Many families believe that a perfect or near-perfect grade point average is the ticket to a prestigious college. In reality, students who are ranked lower are often admitted over the No. 1 ranked student. Colleges do pay attention to GPA but want to see that a student challenges themselves with classes such as Advanced Placement, or higher-level math, science and foreign language courses. A perfect 4.0 GPA earned without challenging courses will not impress many colleges.
Myth 2 -Colleges are looking for a well-rounded student. Wrong. Colleges are looking for students who can contribute to making a well-rounded campus. Pushing students to take on too many activities to put on the college application can lead to burn out. It is much better to focus on a few activities and take on a leadership role in those activates. This demonstrates to the admission’s office that you are a committed student who follows through.
Myth 3 – Getting selected to the most prestigious colleges will assure a successful future. In reality there is no correlation between the college you attend and a successful career and happiness in later life. Do not assume that a college’s name determines one’s future. With over 400 four-year colleges in the U.S. to choose from, there are many less prestigious (easier to get into) colleges that may be a perfect fit for you. Do your research and apply broadly.
Myth 4 -Private colleges are way too expensive. Yes, if you look at the advertised tuition cost of more than $40,000 at most private colleges, they are way too expensive for most families. But over 40 percent of students receive financial aid, and often the cost is comparable to public colleges after receiving grants and scholarships. Check out the net-price calculator posted on each college’s website to get an estimate of what your financial aid could be.
Myth 5 - The college essay isn’t that important. I still have students who begin their college essay a day before the deadline even after I have explained how important it is. Essays are often pivotal in admissions, especially if a student is in competition for a few remaining seats.
Myth 6 - “My son’s friend’s mother said you won’t get in unless…”- parents, don’t believe everything you hear at your kids soccer game. I often hear parents reporting wrong information about what matters in college admissions. Every student is different, and colleges are looking for students who will contribute and be successful at their college. A couple of “B’s and even a “C” may not prevent a student from getting into the college of their choice.
Jill Haley is a retired high school counselor who worked for the Nevada Joint Union High School District for 20 years. She currently operates a college admissions consulting business and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. or at www.getyouintocollege.com