HomeArticlesMore Myths About the College Planning Process

Dear Estelle,
Several years ago you published a comprehensive list of myths about the college planning process. I imagine that with time this list may have changed and you now have other items to add. Myths circulate around the school and everyone starts believing them. With a junior ready to embark on the college process, surely you have some new additions to share with your readers.

-Parent, St. Mary’s High School

Terrific question. I sent an email to my colleagues around the country and came up with a new list. These are my favorites.

*A student has been vigorously recruited by an athletic coach and assumes that he/she will automatically be accepted to that college.
Do not believe you’re in until you receive your acceptance letter from the college admissions office. Frequently a student will be “dangled along” and then rejected by admissions. Occasionally the student fails to apply to other schools and finds himself in April of his senior year with nowhere to go and must begin scrambling.  I remember this most poignantly when a teammate of my son on his varsity high school hockey team was assured admissions to Harvard by the hockey coach. The acceptance never came and he found himself empty-handed. Never assume anything!

*If you apply to enough Ivy League schools, you will have a better chance of being accepted to at least one.
It is better to apply to schools where you have a fairly good chance of acceptance and where you have a “good fit.” Then add the Ivies even though they are probably long shots.  The acceptance rates at the ivies has decreased dramatically each year with most now accepting barely 10% of their applications.

*If an applicant requires need-based financial aid, it is a mistake to apply to a binding early decision school.
A major disadvantage of applying early decision if you need financial aid is that you won’t be able to compare financial aid packages from other schools. All colleges package their aid differently and vary widely between merit aid, loans and grants. On the other hand, many schools give the same aid packages whether a student applies early or regular decision.

*It is more expensive to attend private colleges than public universities
The sticker shock from a private college can be daunting.  However many have substantial endowments which can reduce the cost of attending and make them less expensive than a public university. I encourage my clients to apply to a wide variety of schools so they have choices. Frequently the financial aid package is so substantial a client doesn’t need to worry how he will manage all the debt.

*Applying early decision will always increase your chance of acceptance.
Applying early decision is binding meaning if you are accepted you must attend. With schools becoming increasingly more competitive each year, some accepting as few as 8-10% of their applicants, it’s tempting to think you can improve your chances by applying early. Many schools do accept a large number of students who apply early however many prefer waiting until the regular decision applications are in to compare candidates.  If you are an A++ student with huge ACT/SAT test scores and outstanding activities, applying early to an Ivy may be a benefit. If you are right on the cusp as a candidate, applying early may even get you accepted.  If this is a reach school, it is unlikely you will be accepted. Above all, never apply early if you’re not positive you want to attend.

*The more activities I have on my application, the better I will look to admissions directors.
The days of the “well-rounded” student with a huge laundry list of activities since freshman year are over.  Nowadays colleges are looking for students who are committed to a few significant activities. They are also looking for innovation and leadership. Forget joining a bunch of clubs that don’t interest you and pursue something that really engages you.

*The goal of the college search process is to get into the most highly selective, prestigious college.
Nonsense. The goal of the college search process is to find the best fit for yourself academically, socially and environmentally.

*Only families with demonstrated need should bother filling out the FAFSA.
I recommend that every family fill out the FAFSA.There are many factors which go into a student’s evaluation for need-based aid. The only sure way to find out is to fill out the form.

*I am a high school senior so it’s probably too late to apply for a College Invest 529 scholarship.
It’s actually too early for you to apply but too late for a new college freshman. If your College Invest 529 has been funded for at least two years, you can apply for the scholarship before heading off to college. The July deadline for this has past for this year. This scholarship can be used for in-state and out and is renewable for four years. It can add up to a substantial sum.

*There’s only one perfect school for me!
Actually there are probably over fifty colleges and universities where you can be happy and find success academically, emotionally and socially.

If you’re a senior and haven’t begun the college process, the time is now.  Go for it!

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