Rumors spread like wildfire between parents about college planning process. Remember that feeling you got when Emily’s mom told you there’s no way to get in to a good school without being in the 95th percentile on the SAT?
It’s no wonder that college admissions consultants are being hired on at high rates by parents who just aren’t sure what to do or believe.
Don’t operate on hearsay that’s been passed down over time. Let’s address some of the prevailing myths about finding the right college fit that you might have heard:
Myth #1: College rankings matter.
You see them in U.S. News & World Report each August – a list of “Best College” rankings to “compare the academic quality of U.S.-based schools.” And you believe them.
These rankings are mainly, and perversely, based on how selective the college is. And there’s been controversy over falsified data sent in by some colleges in an attempt to remain high in the rankings. What these lists really should be measuring is the the educational performance and experience of the graduates from those colleges.
Importantly, “Is this college a good fit for me?” is the #1 question to ask. Not “Is this college ranked well on lists?”
Rankings are a great way to sell magazines, but they hold no real value to the students and parents who put their faith in them.
Myth #2: There’s one perfect school for my teenager.
No college is going to fit like Cinderella’s shoe. Best fit is what we’re going for here.
Your teen should have a list of preferences that will make her happy and engaged at college, including things like social and campus environment, academics, location of the school and financial aid packages.
The chances of your teen checking every single one of her preference boxes off is unlikely, though, so prioritizing them is the way to get to “best fit” and success in college.
Myth #3: All good colleges are well-known.
There are thousands of colleges in the U.S., and I’ll guarantee that you haven’t heard of them all. Name recognition typically comes from rankings lists (see Myth #1) or exposure from big-time athletics, which most colleges just don’t have. It doesn’t mean they’re not fine institutions.
Know this: a “good” college is one in which your teen thrives, is engaged and is successful – it’s absolutely, completely subjective. Focus. There.
Myth #4: Colleges only admit students based on GPA and test scores.
These are quantifiable measurements, making them easy to use for comparison’s sake. Grades and test scores are important, but they’re not the end-all, be-all of admissions decisions.
Admissions officers want to see students stand apart from the crowd based on important information other than just the numbers, and decisions are heavily influenced by your teen demonstrating that she has challenged herself in high school. This includes academic rigor (how tough coursework was), extracurricular activities (showing engagement in one or more activities over time), application essays (where your kid can shine as an individual), and letters of recommendation.
Another big influencer for admissions is demonstrating interest in the school itself. Colleges keep a record of the number of times a student contacts or visits the school to show interest, which indicates that your kid’s likely to say ‘yes’ to an acceptance letter if she receives one.
Myth #5: We shouldn’t consider colleges that are outside of our budget.
Truth is, the “sticker price” you see for each college’s tuition isn’t what most people pay. Don’t immediately disregard colleges that might seem out of your price range.
Each college is now required to post a net price calculator on its website to help families estimate what they’ll actually be responsible for with tuition, so start there when determining whether a college will be affordable. Contact the financial aid department at each college, too, to ensure you’re getting the best information.
More myths here include thinking that private colleges always cost more than public colleges, or that tuition for an in-state school is less expensive than an out-of-state school. Do your homework to open up more opportunities for your teen!
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Are there any other myths you know of about the college search process floating around? Leave a comment below!