A dean of admissions once told me that a big part of his job is to simply dispel myths and rumors about the application process — an especially difficult task in the Washington region, where talk of college prep often starts at birth (if not earlier). He wasn’t joking. It’s true.
A quick recap of the myths we picked: 1) It’s best to set your heart on one school and really go for it. 2) The tuition price listed in brochures is what everyone pays. 3) The admissions department adores you. 4) It’s best to crowd your application with a volume of extracurricular activities. 5) It’s better to have a high GPA than to take difficult classes. 6) Essays don’t really matter much in the end because grades and test scores are so dominant in admissions decisions. 7) Recommendations from famous people can give an applicant a huge boost.
8) There are only three accepted topics for your essay: The person you most admire, volunteer work in a third-world nation or great insight about a current event. (HT to Smith College in Massachusetts, which advises applicants to write heartfelt essays.)
9) As long as you run spell-check, there’s no need to proof-read your essay. Plus, college officials don’t care about typos — and they love when you shorten words so your essay reads like a text message.
10) Admissions staffers are super impressed when you use big words, even if they aren’t used correctly. (HT to Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and its list of hot tips for applicants.)
11) If you don’t get accepted, it’s game over. You will never ever attend that institution.
12) There’s no need to visit campus because all colleges are the same.
13) All student loans are the same, so don’t read that fine print. You have four years to learn about interest rates and deferment, so don’t worry about it now.
14) Only apply for massive scholarships worth thousands. It’s a waste of time to apply for awards only worth a couple hundred bucks.