8 Colleges Admissions Myths

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Millions of parents, including those seeking tutoring in Los Angeles, come into the college application process with a lack of information. They need help to get their teens into the right-fit colleges without significant stress. Of course, no one wants to overpay for tuition, and all the misperceptions don’t help. Here are eight common myths the service providers here at Valley Prep Tutoring in Los Angeles hear frequently. Your need to ensure your student has a fair shot at competitively positioned acceptance at selective and highly selective institutions ends here.

  1. MYTH: “I can make up for my academics being below a college’s profile with a strong resume, essay, letter of recommendation, or interview.”
    1. FACT: Academics are by far the main driver in admission decisions.
    2. FACT: Course rigor and a strong GPA are necessary before officers at selective institutions even take the time to view essays and ancillary parts of the package.
  2. MYTH: “Admission offices consider B’s or C’s in advanced classes like AP or IB the same as A’s in regular classes.”
    1. FACT: Although admission officers do want students to take challenging classes, they still want them to perform well and not earn weaker grades.
    2. FACT: Taking easier classes just to get a stronger GPA is also ill-advised. You goal is as much rigor as possible while keeping grades as high as possible.
  3. MYTH: “Colleges expect me to be well-rounded and have a long list of extracurricular activities.”
    1. FACT: Being well-rounded is less important than being able to demonstrate extracurricular activities and community service that is personally meaningful, and preferably connected to the intended major or academic focus.
    2. FACT: Colleges are looking to fill their student body with actualized individuals who demonstrate a sense of direction. Focus matters more than breadth.
  4. MYTH: “Demonstrating interest to colleges will give me a better chance of being admitted to all colleges.”
    1. FACT: Although many schools do track interactions they have with students—via email, social media, and in-person visits—there are some that don’t factor demonstrated interest into admission decisions.
    2. FACT: Most students applying to highly ranked, selective, and/or popular schools will have demonstrated strong interest. If those are your target schools don’t be left out. Some institutions protect their yield by predicting your likelihood to attend based on your behavior. Show the love.
  5. MYTH: “My essay needs to make the reader cry or laugh to stand out.”
    1. FACT: The essay should represent your ability as a writer. It needs to be memorable, but not necessarily emotionally evocative.
    2. FACT: The essay should tell admissions officers something about you as an individual that is not already apparent through the rest of the application. You want to avoid being redundant.
  6. MYTH: “I need to apply Early Action or Early Decision.”
    1. FACT: You should not feel pressured into submitting an early application.
    2. FACT: Early Decision means you are making a binding decision. The cost considerations mean less likelihood of financial aid, too.
    3. FACT: If you’re a strong candidate in EA or ED, you’ll likely be strong in regular. Although Early Action can get you results sooner, many seniors aren’t ready by November 1st, and that’s okay. Don’t sweat it if you need to apply RD (Regular Decision) a month or two later.
  7. MYTH: “Strong standardized test scores will guarantee my admission.”
    1. FACT: According to NACAC survey data, grades and the rigor of curriculum are more important to most institutions than the results of standardized exams.
    2. FACT: In competitive applicant pools, many students will have strong test scores, so that alone won’t make an applicant stand out.
  8. MYTH: “I have a better chance of admission if I declare a particular major.”
    1. FACT: It’s unethical to apply for a major or program you don’t intend to stick with if admitted. Many schools don’t even allow enrolled students to transfer into selective majors or programs if they weren’t admitted into them.
    2. FACT: The major has zero impact for many institutions, in particular liberal arts colleges.

If you’re a parent reading this article, you're invited to connect with Valley Prep Tutoring’s founder Pamela Donnelly for a Q & A session about the admissions process for your teen.

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