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5 College Admissions Myths, De-bunked!

At Summer Discovery, our staff has a combined 100+ years of experience working with colleges, universities, admissions officers, admissions organizations, SAT/ACT prep companies, and other higher education contacts. We’ve learned a lot over the years and want to share our knowledge with you. 

5 College Admissions Myths 

Myth #1: The application process starts your senior year.

Most students apply to college the fall of their senior year, but the application process should start way before your final year. Senior year is for putting the final touches on the application; it’s not for starting the college application journey.  

The college application process starts in the freshman year of high school or sooner. Grades count towards your transcript starting your freshman year. Plus, you allow ample time to figure out where you want to apply to college, what you want to major in, what financial aid you might need, what scholarships are available to you, and more! There’s no way you will have time to do all this in your senior year. Applying to college is a process.  Make sure to begin the process early to ensure success and less stress!  

Myth #2: A long list of extracurricular activities is a sure way to impress a college admissions officer.  

Colleges and universities like to see involvement in extracurricular activities, but if your list is a mile long it might send the wrong message. Universities are looking for students who are authentic, passionate, and engaged in learning both in and outside the classroom. When an admissions officer sees a list of 50 activities, clubs, sports, positions, and organizations, they wonder if that student is truly PASSIONATE about that many things or if they are checking boxes to appear “involved.”  

Don’t worry about the number of extracurricular activities on your college application. Instead, focus on the quality of the experiences and depth of involvement.   

Myth #3: Test scores are the most important part of a college application.  

This is a popular but false assumption. Many students and parents believe the key to getting into a top college is having a perfect SAT or ACT score. While test scores are a factor in college admissions, they aren’t the only factor or even the most important.   

Admissions officers realize that not everyone performs well in high stress, testing situations. Some students perform better through verbal knowledge recall, or writing, or visual demonstration of what they’ve learned.   

Another way admissions’ officers assess students’ knowledge is through their transcript. The transcript tells a story. It tells what the student is interested in by the classes and electives they choose to take. It tells how much a student seeks out challenges. Did they take all the easy courses, or did they take some more challenging classes? You should focus on telling the story of your high school academic career through your transcript. Many universities are going test optional, making transcripts and supplemental materials an even more critical part of the application.  

Myth #4: Admissions officers don’t really read essays.  

Students and parents are usually about 50/50 on whether they believe this myth. Some think essays matter, and others believe essays aren’t important. We’re here to tell you that you should invest time in your essays and personal statements because admissions officers DO pay attention to them.  

First, colleges and universities aren’t here to make extra work for students or themselves. If they are asking the student to write an essay, they are going to look at the essay. They may not spend two hours reading every word, but they will at least scan the materials and get the highlights.  

Second, essays are an opportunity for admissions officers to “meet a student” without meeting them. The essay is to a college application like a cover letter is to a resume. It helps to add some flavor of who you are as a person and what you care about.    

Myth #5: The best time to visit a college is after you have been accepted.  

You should visit AT LEAST ONE college or university BEFORE you apply. Notice that we didn’t say you must visit all your preferred colleges. We also didn’t say you had to visit any of the colleges on your shortlist. But we suggest you visit at least one college or university before you start actively applying to college.  

The goal is for you to experience a college campus. It will help you to establish a frame of reference for comparison to other colleges. For example, how will you know if you prefer a large campus or small campus if you’ve never stepped foot on any campuses?  

It’s up to you if you want to spend the time and effort to visit all of your preferred campuses. Some students wait until they are accepted to do college visits, and others do visits before applying. We encourage you to visit a small college in your hometown, schedule a college tour when you are in a different city for a family vacation, or take a day trip with other families to see a campus or two. Due to COVID-19, many colleges now have virtual tours for students to take instead of attending an in-person tour. Take advantage of this technology!  

Looking for experiential learning outside the classroom? Participate in a Summer Discovery pre-college experience. We can help you discover your passions and hone your interests through one of our many programs. Connect with us by phone (516) 621-3939, by email or chat, and we’ll help you on your journey to college.   

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