For those of you new to the college search – it can be overwhelming. Where do you start? Who do you trust? There are lots of good and bad information on the Internet. And, many students fall into immediate pitfalls…but luckily, you won’t be one of them!
Here are 6 common college admissions myths that you shouldn’t believe:
1. MYTH: “I’ve never heard of [insert college name here], so it must not be very good.”
TRUTH: Naturally, many schools make their name through collegiate athletics and television time. But when looking for a college, don’t be led by just your sports fan-dom. Having a good football or basketball team doesn’t mean the class size, academic offerings, and quality of faculty are best fit for getting you to graduation. Likewise, just because you know a name and see it on TV doesn’t make it a good institution, either.
2. MYTH: “The higher a school is ranked, the better the school.”
TRUTH: College admissions professionals will drill one thing into you during your college search: finding the “best fit”. This involves you and your family assessing your needs and wants to find the “best” school that matches and best prepares you for success. Click here to read how we debunk college rankings.
What rankings will not tell you is which college makes you feel most at home, where you will be most engaged socially, and where you will excel academically. While you may go to Kelly Blue Book for a car, or Consumer Reports for a vacuum – college rankings are not where you should go to pick a school.
3. MYTH: “The more extracurricular activities I can put on my college application, the better.”
TRUTH: Being a well-rounded student does include activities outside of the classroom. And it is always a good idea to involve yourself with extracurricular activities. However, be intentional. Don’t give into pressure and involve yourself in a dozen different clubs where you feel so overwhelmed you hardly contribute. Select where you spend your time in areas that genuinely interest you, then immerse yourself and create change. Colleges won’t care about the list of organizations, they’ll care about what you did in them. Attending meetings isn’t impressive. Organizing, coordinating, planning and delivering results is. Choose activities you’re passionate about and convey that in your application.
4. MYTH: “Having a VIP recommendation will make my application look really impressive.”
TRUTH: Name dropping for the sake of name dropping is a big college app no-no. Don’t ask VIP’s – Congressmen, corporate CEO’s, members of the college’s Board of Trustees – to write recommendations for you unless you have a relationship with them in a work or internship setting that provides context to an area your application. Someone who does not know you personally (and likely doing a favor for your parents) does nothing for your college application, no matter how big their name. Colleges want teacher recommendations. Why? Because they are best suited to provide insight into the your academic interests, strengths, weaknesses, leadership skills, and how you’ll best contribute as a student at our school.
5. MYTH: “I know NCAA DIII schools don’t give athletic scholarships, BUT if I’m an important recruit, they can ‘sweeten the pot’ if they really want too.”
TRUTH: Sorry, but this one is absolutely, 100% false. NCAA Division III Bylaw 15.01.3 says, “A member institution shall not award financial aid to any student on the basis of athletics leadership, ability, participation or performance.” As you can see, NCAA Division III schools are prohibited from providing athletic aid. In fact, Division III institutions are closely monitored by the NCAA on how they allocate their financial aid and they will step in and review a school if they expect a potential violation. If found guilty, it can be considered a “major infraction” meaning the school could face serious consequences. The student may also suffer repercussions, as the bylaws (15.01.2) also state, “any student-athlete who receives financial aid other than that permitted by the Association shall not be eligible for intercollegiate athletics.” Click here to read more about DIII and scholarships.
6. MYTH: “If I wait until May 1 to make my final decision, I’ll be offered more scholarship money.”
TRUTH: This is a common misconception. Most colleges provide academic scholarships based on specific criteria, often GPA, test scores, and high school rigor. Unfortunately, if these criteria don’t change, neither will your scholarship, regardless of timing.
Additional money is often misinterpreted by the student receiving the award. As each school’s class shapes along the year, institutions may reserve funds for students who have:
(1) continued to perform well by the end of their senior year, or
(2) appealed their financial aid package due to unforeseen changes in their financial status.
When you apply to college, your application, transcript and grades are assessed predominately from your freshman to junior year. But, if a school thinks you have continued your academic prowess, some schools may provide additional funding (many do not). This is very limited and given in very small increments. It happens rarely because the funding for this often comes from scholarships turned down applicants when a student chooses to attend elsewhere. The scholarships. which were allotted (to now withdrawn applicants), may give the school a few additional funds to reallocate to students who are deserving. However, this is never guaranteed and should not be expected as not all schools budget or operate in this manner.
The same goes for a family who has chosen to appeal their financial aid award because, for example, their FAFSA didn’t reflect a layoff of a job or loss of income due to a death of a family member. This “extra” funding that students may tell their friends and family about often is misinterpreted as being because they “waited it out until May 1” rather than realizing it was because of their academic achievements or their financial appeal.