The problem with anonymous advice

A student at one of our free seminars yesterday asked:

“Someone on an online college admissions chat I read said that it’s a good idea to insert a picture of yourself into your essay, or to say ‘thank you’ with a smiley face at the end, just as a way to make your essay a little more memorable.  Is that really a good idea?”

My advice?  Get off the online chats.

This was obviously a nice, smart kid. He deserves better than (bad) advice from anonymous online posters.

College admissions is a subject for which lots of people are quick to give free advice even when they have no idea what they are talking about.  But anonymous online advice is the worst kind because you don’t know them, and they don’t know (or care about) you.

High school counselors, private counselors, admissions officers, even your older brother or sister who’s been through the process and can share what they learned—these people know something about college admissions.  But more importantly, they care about you.  They care about their professional reputations.  They’ve got a personal stake in seeing you succeed.

Learning about and asking for advice about college admissions is a good thing.  But one of the reasons this process has gotten so confusing is that there’s almost too much information and advice available.  The first step towards making sense of all this might be to ignore the stuff from anonymous sources and people who don’t work in college admissions.  Get your advice from people you know who are also in-the-know.