6 Common College Admissions Myths

"WHEN APPLYING TO college, many students think they know which strategies will help them attract the attention – in a good way – of admissions officers. But there’s often a gap between perception and reality about what actually matters, and what matters most, when it comes to grades, test scores, extracurricular activities and other factors. And what holds true in this unprecedented time will differ in some ways from the norm.

Many colleges report that they take a multifaceted approach to reviewing applicants, factoring in grades and scores on the SAT or ACT, but also aiming ‘to evaluate them beyond what is seen on a transcript,’ Joe Shields, an admissions counselor at Goucher College in Maryland, says. ‘A holistic admissions review process allows a student to demonstrate their best qualities and discuss how they would be a good fit for that college.’

Another promising and often misunderstood fact: It’s not as difficult as many students think to get admitted to a college, beyond the most selective schools. On average, two-thirds of first-time freshman applicants were offered admission to a four-year school in the U.S., according to a 2019 report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Some 80% of colleges accepted 50% or more." …


I personally would not call a lot of these myths. See my responses below for each:

Myth #1 - Getting all A's is the most important thing.

For the most selective colleges getting mostly A’s, in rigorous classes, is very important. In fact, many states guarantee admission to their public universities if you have a certain GPA (class rank) such as University of Texas and the CA UCs. HS grades matter and are the best predictor of a college student’s success. And once you are in college, your undergraduate grades are also very important for recruiting and applying to graduate school. Bottom line is: grades absolutely matter

Myth #2 - Test scores can make or break your chances of getting in.

Getting a great test score will not necessarily guarantee you admission to stop colleges but a very poor score will essentially kill your chances. So in general, yes test scores can make or break your chances to getting into certain colleges.

Myth #3 - The more clubs and activities on your resume, the better.

I generally agree with this statement, don’t just join a bunch of clubs to put on your application, depth is better than breadth, but with that said on the common app they have at least 10 areas to list your extracurricular activities and it should mostly be filled up with significant activities you participated in during your high school years. So spread your wings and try different activities and take on some leadership positions.

Myth #4 - You should ask for a LOR only from a teacher who gave you an A.

You should get a letter(s) of recommendation from a teacher (or similar individuals) who knows you well and will give you glowing recommendations for college. Generally these are from teachers who like you, know that you did well in their class, and can write about how wonderful of a student you were compared to your peers.

Myth #5 - It's a mistake to get creative with your essay.

It’s fine to be creative, but you need to know your audience and they may or may not like your creativity if its too extreme. Make sure you have several people read your essay(s) to make sure your message comes across as intended. In general, safer is better.

Myth #6 - To make yourself memorable, you need to visit the campus."

You don’t visit a campus to make yourself memorable, you visit a college campus to let adcoms know that you are serious about attending their college enough to visit. Demonstrated interest is very important at some colleges and visiting their campus is one way to show interest. Colleges do not like extending offers to students who don’t show any interest that they would attend, if accepted. You need to give colleges the love and they might give it back.

In general, I think the 6 myths above were a little misguided and might convey the wrong message to the reader, especially #1 and 2. Get the best grades and test scores you are capable of (i.e. give it your best shot).

@socaldad2002 I’ll somewhat disagree with you on a couple of these,

I don’t think that what you are writing contradicts the article. Grades matter, but, aside from about 5% of all colleges, attended by perhaps 2% of all undergraduates, having solid As is not required for admissions.

They are not saying that grades don’t matter, but that perfect grades are not a requirement for attending a great college - something with which I am sure you agree.

I generally agree with you that this was the way things used to be, and not only certain colleges - a test score which was substantially lower that the median of admitted students could harm acceptance chances at a large number of colleges.

However, depending on whether and how many colleges stay test optional, this may change.

On the other hand, having four activities which take up your time, say, dance classes, dance company, robotics, and a social action club, are more than enough for any student to have on their activity list.

So the point is for a student to fill up their time, not to fill up their list.

I think that “ Getting All A’s Is the Most Important Thing” and “Of course, your grades matter.” are contradictory, at least in what they imply.

“You need straight A’s to get into a good college” would be a much better wording of the myth. That’s certainly seen in the regular “I got a B one semester in 9th grade, is my life over?”-type posts on CC.