Jill Haley: Five myths about college admissions | TheUnion.com

Jill Haley: Five myths about college admissions

Jill Haley
Columnist

Photo for The Union John Hart

In my over 20 years counseling students and their families about applying to college, here are the most common misconceptions:

State vs. private college. It is much cheaper to go to a state college then a private one. Not always. If you are eligible for financial aid, looking for colleges that best meet your needs or those that do not include loans in their financial aid package may be your best option.

Private colleges, such as Santa Clara University, may have more financial aid available than public universities like UC Davis. The amount of aid available will also increase if a student has a high GPA, SAT/ACT test scores or has an exceptional talent.

To get an idea of what your eligibility for financial aid might be, complete the FAFSA4caster on the Department of Education's website: fafsa.ed.gov.

Freshman year doesn't count. I hear this a lot, and many students hope it is true. The fact is that colleges look at all your grades starting in the freshman year. The public colleges in California do place more emphasis on your academic performance in the sophomore and junior years but they look at the grades in college prep classes in your freshman year.

If you blew it in ninth grade, make sure your grades improve, as colleges value a student who matures in their academic progress. You can also explain poor freshman grades in your college essay if you have extenuating circumstances.

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You must take all Advanced Placement Classes to get into a great college. Students are literally making themselves sick by overloading themselves with Advanced Placement and Honors classes. Most colleges look at applications holistically and not taking one Advanced Placement class rarely makes a difference in acceptance.

Top colleges such as MIT are encouraging students to take the advanced classes in areas they excel or are interested in and using spare time to volunteer or work in their community.

Majoring in anything other than science and math is a waste of time. Not at all. Employers often list skills such as communication, writing, and problem solving as the most desirable qualities they look for when hiring.

The ability to think globally and to understand different perspectives is the hallmark of a liberal arts education, and is often cited in companies such as Google as desirable qualities in new hires.

Getting into the best (i.e. most highly ranked) college means greater success in later life. Students (and parents) pay way too much attention to the rankings. Just because a college rejects over 90 percent of their students doesn't mean it is the best college to attend.

What matters is whether the college is best for the student. Does it offer the right majors, at the right price?

What you make of your college experience is a lot more important than where you attend.

These so called "second tier" schools are often loaded with amazing, dedicated professors and the opportunities for real world experience in the form of internships, which can be important in getting that all-important job after graduation.

Jill Haley is a retired high school counselor who now works as an independent college counselor. She can be reached at http://www.getyouintocollege.com or jillncca@gmail.com.

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