Top Ten Myths About College Admissions

Dr Lowe

Dr. Lowe with Panetha Ott, Director of Admissions, International Recruitment at Brown University. Contributed photo

By Dr. Paul Lowe – College Admissions Guru

I have been an independent college admissions advisor for over 17 years.  I personally visit over 100 colleges annually, talk with admissions officers and deans at colleges and attend international higher education conferences and symposiums.  Yet, year after year, I hear students and parents, and even high school guidance counselors, falling prey to myths that keep students from getting into the college of their choice or worse settling for a safety school after years of hard work.

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Janet Lavin Rapelye, Dean of Admissions, Princeton University with Dr. Lowe

I believe that insider knowledge, timely and practical information, personalized strategies and awareness of the hyper-competition in the global college admissions are keys to admissions success to Ivy League and highly selective college and universities.

Here are several myths that I hear and believe are important to dispel:

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Dr. Lowe with Eric Furda, Dean of Admission, University of Pennsylvania

Myth # 1:  You can’t get into a selective college if you did poorly in the ninth or tenth grade.  College admissions officers look for improvement in performance as a sign that you can and will do the work.  In fact, a vast improvement as a junior and even senior indicates to a college that you have overcome a challenge or settled down.  However, do not expect to catch up for three poor years in one good semester as a senior.

Myth # 2:  Once you’re accepted you have nothing to worry about. Absolutely wrong!  An acceptance letter is a conditional acceptance.  I encourage my clients to read the signature portion of their Common Applications!  Colleges can legally reject you right up to registration!

Myth # 3:  Is my social media profile considered in the application process? According to a survey, over a quarter of college admissions officers today include Google and Facebook in application evaluations; 35% report discovering information that negatively impacted prospective students’ chances.  My advice: clean up your social media profile: Facebook, Google, Twitter and  Instagram.  A negative social media profile may just help you get rejected!

Myth # 4:  My child has a 4.0 GPA, is in the top 5% of his class and is a shoo-in.
Really! College admissions is global competition for limited slots.  I always advise my clients that they are competing with peers domestically, nationally and internationally.  So it’s great you’re at the top of your class at your school, in your community, (and as I state to my clients – “you believe that you are all that”), however, for the global admissions process you have to stand out and compete with students who you don’t know and from schools you have never heard of!

Myth # 5:  Supplemental essays aren’t really important as the main Common Application essays. Wrong!  The supplemental essays add dimension and depth to your main essays and are school-specific.

The short-answer essays may seem simple but are quite complicated.  The main purpose of a short-answer essay is to see if your answer can be clear, concise and meaningful in the allotted space.

Myth # 6:  My grades are more important than which classes I take. Admissions officers prefer to see students challenge themselves with harder classes, even if they don’t have a 4.0, than students who have straight A’s and 4.0 because they have been taking easier class load.

Myth # 7:  Top students from suburban or elite private schools don’t hire educational consultants. Wrong!  A recent student 26% of high-achieving students used a private college admissions consultant to assist them with their college admissions process.  The new survey provides evidence that educational consultants work with approximately 160,000 college applicants each year.  Additional research has indicated that many international students, who applied to Ivy League and highly selective colleges and who were accepted, hired educational consultants.

Myth # 8:  Being a legacy increases my chances of admission to my parent’s alma mater.Well, not really.  Sure being a legacy does help, in some cases.  But the rejection rates amongst legacy applicants at several highly selective schools are as high as 80 percent.  If you rejected as a legacy applicant, then what?  It’s best to thoroughly prepare and plan for your admissions process even as a legacy applicant.

MYTH #9:  Colleges are only looking for well-rounded students. While some colleges are looking for well-rounded students, they also want specialists:  musical prodigy, the track star, the debate team leader and the world traveler.  Why the mix? Because schools affirmatively accept students.  They want talented, intellectually engaged students who will be contributing members of a diverse incoming class. They do not seek students who are “unique just like everyone else”.

Myth # 10:  International students have a far more difficult time gaining admissions to selective colleges.  If you believe in this myth then you believe that college admissions is not global competition.

International student simply means that their primary residence is outside the U.S.  In my experience and practice international students are global citizens.  They are usually fluent in at least 3 languages, in addition to English, they travel extensively, and many attend US boarding schools.  Additionally, admissions officers from selective colleges travel and aggressively recruit students to add to their global college communities.  In many cases, international students are far more prepared for the global and competitive admissions process than U. S. students.