Lies people tell high school freshmen

For new freshmen starting school next week, it's important that you get the right information about how to get into college.  So you're going to need to learn to spot bad advice.  Here are five lies a lot of freshmen hear when they start high school.  Anyone who tells you these are true is probably not someone you want to go to for academic or college advice.

1. The freshman year doesn’t count for college admissions.

The freshman year is always the least important year when colleges evaluate you (they figure you’re just trying to find the school every day). But that doesn’t mean the freshman year doesn’t matter at all. Lots of colleges, particularly private schools, will look at the freshman year.  And since your academic performance as a freshman influences what classes you’ll be able to take as a sophomore, it matters for pretty much every college. So don’t panic if you have a stumble here or there while learning the ropes of high school. But don’t blow off your freshman year, either.

2. Colleges like students who hold leadership positions.

When people say, "Leadership looks good on your college applications,” it implies that leadership is somehow better than other activities. Colleges do like leadership. But they don’t like it more (or less) than athletics, art, music, community service, taking cooking classes, writing for the newspaper or any other activity that you really care about and make an impact doing. Colleges don’t have a magic list of activities that look “good.” They just want to see that you have the initiative and passion to find things you love doing and to commit yourself to them.

3. (Insert name of teacher here) is a terrible teacher.

I’m going to let you in on a secret. A lot of students who claim a particular teacher is "terrible" are just bitter that they didn't do well in the class.  The best students don’t complain about terrible teachers. They find a way to get good grades no matter who the teacher is.  I’m not saying that great students love all their teachers or that every teacher is of equal quality. But part of being a successful student means learning to get along with all of your teachers, asking questions, and being willing to ask for extra help when you need it.

4. It’s impossible to get into a good college today.

There are about 40 colleges that are absurdly difficult to get into. But there are over 2,000 colleges in the country, and all but about 100 of them take pretty much everybody who applies. The harder you work and the more successful you are, the more college opportunities you’re going to have, so your efforts are certainly worth it. But don’t take yourself out of the game by believing that only straight-A, perfect test scoring, proton-inventing students get into college.

5. The counselors at school don’t do anything.

Anyone at a high school who claims the counselors don’t do anything is probably A) someone who’s never bothered to visit his counselor, and B) a jerk.  High school counselors work hard for their students.  If you’re at a big school, your counselor might not seek you out and ask you to meet to talk about how to get into college.  But why should your counselor care about your college process more than you do?  If you want to go to college and you want your counselor’s advice, find your counselor, introduce yourself, and ask when you can schedule a meeting so you can talk about your college future.