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Myths About College Selection

Before beginning the college process, it’s important to know that there are several myths about selecting a school and being admitted. Some are based in fact, while others are purely the stuff of legend. Please keep these myths and the truth in mind.

Myth 1    “There is a perfect college for each student.”

Understanding that there is no perfect college will make the application process more exciting and less stressful.  Focusing on only one college, students may spend too much time worrying about getting into that particular school, which may prevent one from exploring other institutions.  If a student has decided that there is only one perfect school, he or she may be setting themselves up to be disappointed; we urge students to look at a variety of colleges and universities so they will see for themselves the opportunities available.

There are thousands of colleges and universities in the United States.  Some are private and some are public.  Some are large; some are small.  Some are liberal arts colleges; some specialize in pre-professional programs.  Some are in rural areas; some are in cities.  Exploring this exciting variety will help students determine which opportunities appeal to them most.

Myth 2  “Students need to decide on a career before they can choose a college.”

While it is important to have a goal, or at least to be aware of one’s major interests, students do not have to know what major or career they intend to pursue.  If a student is undecided, they should consider the academic subjects they like best.  For example, if they are particularly interested in English, art, and physics in high school, they will probably continue to be interested in these three areas in college.  They should not be surprised, however, to discover that the subjects they now enjoy become somewhat less important as they discover courses not offered in high school.

Myth 3  “We’ve never heard of this college, so it can’t be any good.”

It is not unusual for students to have preconceived notions about a particular college because their parents attended it or because someone they admire—teacher, coach, or friend—is a graduate.  These are strong influences and should not be ignored.

However, most people know very little about colleges. The average, well-educated man or woman can probably name only 1oo of the over 3,ooo colleges and universities in the United States, and these tend to be older Eastern colleges and universities, large state universities, those with outstanding athletic teams, or ones that happen to be near his or her home.  Some very appealing colleges in the country may not be well known to the general public but offer outstanding educational opportunities.  It is important to remember that a college that could be the right match may be one which is unknown to students at certain points in the process, and some of the universities they (or their parents) have heard the most about may not be a good fit for them.  The best way to discover whether a college is a good fit is to visit a number of schools, spend some time on campus, and keep an open mind.

Myth 4  “The most important factor in college admission is standardized test scores.”

You may have heard that test scores, particularly the SATs, will be the most important factor in determining whether someone will be admitted to a college.  While it is true that these scores are considered by most colleges and universities, the college admissions officers also look at many other factors to make very complex and difficult decisions.  The high school transcript, including the rigor of course load, is most important.  Colleges generally look for a healthy balance made up of high school record, test scores, extracurricular activities, teacher recommendations, and other personal achievements.

It is also important to note that many selective colleges have test- or SAT-optional admissions policies.  More information on these colleges is available under Standardized Testing.

Other Myths

If you hear a “fact” that, when you stop and think about it, seems illogical or too good or bad to be true, bring it to the attention of a college counselor.  He or she can often ease your mind by providing you with more accurate information.

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