Top 15 College Admissions Myths

Don’t get fooled by myths about college admissions; we have broken down the biggest ones.

If you’re thinking about test prep for college though, don’t hesitate to learn about our SAT prep and ACT prep courses.

Myths About College Admissions

COLLEGE ADMISSIONS MYTH TRUTH
There’s Only One Perfect School for Me Don’t be afraid to explore your options and investigate the wide variety of schools out there. It’s fine to have one preferred school. But the college admissions process is multidimensional and not easily controllable. Expand your vision from one dream school to a top three or five list to reduce anxiety and give you more options to choose from ultimately.
Only The Application Matters Colleges track of how often you contact them and if you arrange a campus visit. Showing active interest can give you an extra boost in the admissions board’s eyes. Don’t forget about the yield rate too; that’s how many accepted applicants actually enroll. This metric helps a school’s overall prestige, so assure admissions officers that you will definitely enroll with them.
More Accomplishments Increase My Chances Admissions boards evaluate many different factors when deciding who gets accepted. Once their basic requirements are met, everything else plays a role but isn’t a bullseye that guarantees automatic admission. For example, high SAT/ACT test scores and GPA definitely help out, but they alone don’t offer a 100% admission guarantee.
A Huge List of Extracurricular Activities Is Essential Many college applicants participate in various extracurricular activities.  Admissions boards already know that. They zero in on quality, not quantity. They’ll spend more time examining activities where you played a leadership role or significantly influenced major projects. Focus on fewer things you can dedicate more effort to instead of just participating.
Name-Drop In Recommendation Letters And Essays Know a major celebrity? Great. But don’t think that name-dropping them in a recommendation letter or essay will get you anywhere. Admissions officers want to hear from people you’ve personally worked with and know your potential. Unless you have such a relationship with that celebrity, don’t include it.
Social Media Doesn’t Matter You need to protect your online reputation. If you’re tagged in embarrassing photos or wrote offensive posts, admissions officers will see them. Understand that if they are taking the time to consider your application, they’re going to be thorough. This examination process now includes social media. Make sure your profiles are clean.
Essays Don’t Really Matter Don’t get it twisted; including a bad or rushed essay can definitely hurt your overall application package. Even if you think you’re in a strong position, showing the admissions board that you made zero or little effort on your essay lowers your chances. Take the time to build a strong essay.
SAT/ACT Score Is The Most Important Thing Your SAT or ACT score places you in a college applicant pool. Beyond that, admissions officers will dig into your academic transcript. Classroom grades and performance are of greater interest to them once you’re in the pool. Don’t undervalue the importance of a good score; it helps get your place in line. But even a “perfect” score alone doesn’t guarantee admission.
Get Recommendations From Teachers Who Gave You A’s Of those teachers that only gave you A’s, how well do they know you? Do they know your work ethic or were they just really easy graders? Admissions officers want recommendations from people who actually know you the best. An example would include a teacher who is also a coach or afterschool club organizer you’ve worked with outside of class.
Application Process Starts In 12th Grade Because admissions boards look at your entire high school transcript, everything you do from ninth grade forward counts. If you’re getting ready to enter high school, it’s smart to think far ahead of classes you want to take, activities to join, etc. The sooner you start planning for the admissions process, the better off you will be in the end.
Universities Only Accept A Small Percentage Of Applicants Believe it or not, most colleges and universities accept over 50% of applicants. Public perception focuses on admissions for the most selective institutions. People mistakenly think every school is this way. The truth is, there is a good chance you’ll get into the school you want if you take the process seriously.
Interviews Offset Bad GPA Or Test Scores Pulling off a great interview doesn’t hurt your chances of getting into school. But your SAT/ACT score and high school transcripts are more important. If you are coming in with a low test score, chances of making the applicant pool are low. Furthermore, demonstrating weak academic performance throughout all four years of high school will trump your winning personality.
Colleges Look For Well-Rounded Students Colleges aren’t looking for well-rounded students…they’re looking for well-rounded classes. That’s the key to understanding their entire process. They’re looking for students who individually may only have one or two major strong points. Why? Because selecting those kids together creates an entire class full of talented students.
Take Easy Classes To Maintain A High GPA Many students avoid AP and honors classes because they’re afraid of damaging their perfect academic records. But racking up A’s doesn’t matter if you weren’t ever challenged. Colleges look at students who take higher-level courses because it demonstrates to them that these kids welcome adversity, are intellectually curious, and can handle academic rigor.
Interviews Are Always Optional Some colleges say interviews are optional. However, if you put the time into setting up and attending an in-person interview, admissions officers will notice. They understand interviews are scary, but you overcame that fear and showed genuine interest in their school. Plus interviewing lets you share why you feel you’d make a great fit for a particular school.

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Key Takeaways To Remember

Here are a few key themes to consider when approaching the college application process:

Quality NOT Quantity – You don’t have to be all things to everybody when applying to colleges and universities. They are concerned with assembling the strongest class possible. You don’t have to be amazing at everything, but you need to be great at a couple things, i.e. debater, musician, athlete, etc.

This thought also applies to your academic work, not just extracurricular activities. If you’re looking to get into a school with a strong Biology program because that’s what you want to study, then think about honors or AP Biology courses.

The challenge will be real, but it also shows that school’s admissions board that you are serious about pursuing this subject and would be a good fit for their program.

Everything Counts – There is no major bullet to gain admission to your dream school; a successful application needs to encompass so many things.  

Good test scores and GPA,  academic transcript, extracurricular activities and in-person factors like interviews and campus visits count.  No one thing will take you entirely over the edge, but screwing one up badly does bring everything else down so be careful.

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It’s Never Too Early To Plan Ahead – Applying for college doesn’t have to start senior year. In fact, life will be a lot easier the sooner you think ahead.

Don’t want to join 20 different clubs and sports? That’s fine, instead focus on two or three activities you’re really passionate about and pursue them intensely. You’ll either eventually lead them or made enough impact on them to be noticed.

Apply yourself hard in all your classes from freshman year forward and challenge yourself when possible; admissions boards not only want to see good grades but the consistent effort and the willingness to challenge yourself too.

Above All Else, Don’t Dread The Process – Applying for college isn’t easy, but as all these myths show, it’s not the end of the world either. Approach it with a plan and manage your time and skills wisely for the best chance at success. Don’t let these myths about college admissions hold you back.

For more information and tips, check out Prep Expert.



Todd Konrad

Todd has an extensive background in entertainment, public relations, and technology startup engagement. After graduating from Arizona State University, Todd has spent the past twelve years working in content development, writing for a variety of companies in various markets. He has interviewed various Academy Award-winning actors and directors, during his time in the film industry.