When it comes to college admissions, knowledge is power. So make sure you don’t
fall for these five popular myths.
1. Connections get you in
That letter of recommendation from the alumnus who is also your father’s
business partner isn’t likely to get you in. And neither is the fact that your
neighbor knows someone on the admissions staff.
Admissions officers are looking for motivated students who can add to their
campus communities, not the ones who know the “right people.” So, unless the
brand new research center at your dream school has your family’s name on it
(which would help), don’t count on your connections to get you in.
2. Application gimmicks make you stand out
Ever heard of applicants sending cookies with their applications? How about
students who ignore directions and write the application in the school’s
colors? Or those who send videos of themselves singing the schools’ fight song?
These tricks make for good stories, but not for good applications.
A hungry admissions officer might gladly eat your cookies (if you’re a good
cook), but that’s not what’s going to get you into college. In fact, tricks
like sending food, funny videos, scrapbooks, or live animals are more likely to
annoy the staff than they are to open the doors of admission for you. Instead,
spend your time thoughtfully answering the application’s questions and
revealing who you are. And unless a college specifically encourages you to send
extra materials (some do), save the cookies to feed your friends.
3. The more activities you do, the better your chances of admission
Colleges aren’t interested in students who dabbled in dozens of activities just
to pad their resumes. In fact, it’s much more effective if you truly commit
yourself to the activities you most enjoy.
So if you love physics a whole lot more than sports, become the captain of your
school’s Physics Olympiad team and study Newton’s playbook instead. Love art
more than music? Drop your violin and get the brushes out. Students who are
deeply committed to activities they sincerely enjoy are the ones most appealing
4. If you don’t have high enough test scores, colleges won’t even look at you.
Yes, test scores can be very important, especially at the most competitive
colleges. But a lot of good colleges are interested in more than just the
numbers. So don’t necessarily assume that low test scores will keep you out.
Instead, ask your counselor at your high school for advice about how your
scores match up with your chosen colleges.
5. It’s impossible to get into a good college these days.
While there are around 40 schools where the competition is more intense than
ever, there are still over 2,000 colleges in the country. In fact, all but
about 100 of them take virtually everybody who applies. And you know what? A
lot of them are great schools. Try to find the ones that fit you best, rather
than just the ones whose names you know. And don’t assume that the hardest
schools to get into are necessarily the best colleges for you.