This list of common myths about the college admissions process may leave you feeling surprised and relieved.
Myth #1: There Are Only a Few ‘Correct’ Essay Topics
Truth: The purpose of a college application essay is for you to paint a picture of who you are as a person. That means you should talk about what’s important to you.
Ultimately, you shouldn’t use the essay just to talk about credentials that will already be evident based on your transcript, GPA, and test scores. If the school you’re applying to has a section on its application for you to detail things like work and volunteer experience, you don’t need to use the essay as an opportunity to bludgeon the admissions committee with proof of this experience. Instead, use these experiences as a means to say something about who you are, and who you want to be. This may be your only opportunity to show your personality to the admissions committee, so use it wisely.
Myth #2: You’ve Got Plenty of Time
Truth: It doesn’t make sense to get super stressed out, but giving yourself even more time to consider your options will save headaches down the road.
Some people may say you’re getting ahead of yourself if you start looking at colleges before the second half of your junior year. But the reality is that it’s good to get an early idea of what kind of school you want to go. Would you prefer to go to a small liberal arts college or a large university? What kind of programs are you interested in? Having an early answer to these questions can help guide you to a better choice. Starting the school selection process will then give you more time to work on your application, allowing you to avoid careless mistakes that come when you have to rush to meet a deadline.
Myth #3: You Have One Shot at Your Dream School
Truth: Re-applying to a competitive school after a successful year at a different college may increase your chances of success.
It’s not uncommon for high school students to have their hearts set on a dream school. But applying for a top-tier school as a high school student puts you in a pool of thousands, and sometimes you don’t make the cut. But that doesn’t mean you’ve been permanently rejected. Instead, you can attend a different school for a year and apply for a transfer. If you’ve done well during that year, your chances of attending your dream school may be much higher than they were the first time around.
Myth #4: ‘Safety Schools’ Don’t Have to Be Schools You Actually Want to Attend
Truth: You should only apply to schools you want to go to.
It’s a good idea to apply to schools in different aspirational tiers – a small handful of schools that seem realistically within your grasp, a ‘reach’ school that seems perhaps too competitive and a ‘safety school’ or two, just in case you don’t get into any of your other choices.
The fact that ‘safety schools’ are considered a sure thing doesn’t mean you should flippantly pick the first ones that come to mind since there is a chance you’ll end up attending. Instead, think carefully about what schools you wouldn’t mind attending that also have less competitive admissions.