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What are some common misconceptions students have about the college admission process?

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Anne Macleod WeeksAnne Macleod Weeks
Upper School Director
The Agnes Irwin School
That they cannot control the outcome. They need to put their best foot forward but also realize that being rejected does not mean they failed. They can be perfectly qualified and still not be admitted. This is why it is so important to have a few colleges to which they know they can be admitted and will be happy to attend.

Marilyn G.S. Emerson
Independent Educational Consultant and Founder
College Planning Services, Inc.

They think they have nothing to write about. They believe that only a limited number of schools are worth attending. They believe that higher grades trump taking more rigorous courses. They believe that visiting and speaking with college representatives and professors will make up for poor grades.

Charlotte M. Klaar, Ph.D.Charlotte M. Klaar, Ph.D.
Director
Klaar College Consulting LLC
The most common misconception is that there is only one thing that is paramount in the process (the essay, or test scores, or that C in French in freshman year). This is definitely not the case! The admission process is multi-dimensional and most colleges look at the student holistically. Everything is taken into consideration; therefore, no element of the application should be left to chance.

Ann HerbenerAnn Herbener
College Counselor
Papillion-La Vista High School
The biggest misconception students have is that private colleges and universities are too expensive. It takes repetition on my part and that of the admission representatives to convince them that private colleges can sometimes be more affordable than public universities. My students and parents often think that it is a waste of time to complete the FAFSA. 

Heather JohnsonHeather Johnson
Educational Consultant
Heather Johnson Associates
I think there are many. There is a lot of hype around test scores, and I’m not sure they understand how those are considered by colleges. Sometimes I think they think the essay plays a different role than it might--that they should or shouldn’t disclose different types of information.

Sandra E. CliftonSandra E. Clifton
Educational Consultant for Social & Emotional Learning
Clifton Corner: An Academic Coaching Center.
Sometimes students think that there is a certain template that they need to achieve to be the “right fit” for a school. Ironically, colleges are often looking for the very kid that breaks the mold, not the one who tries to fit into the fold!

Stuart NachbarStuart Nachbar
President
EducatedQuest.com

  • That “brand name” schools are the best schools
  • That a school is “good” when it is hard to get into
  • That financial aid is impossible to get, especially merit-based aid
  • That admission officers look for specific answers to essays or admit students based on clever gimmicks
  • That a bad ACT or SAT score is a kiss of death
  • That publicly supported schools will always be less expensive (cost and debt) than private schools