Let’s Debunk Some College Myths
Getting ready to apply to your dream school? Here are 9 myths about colleges to watch for during the college application process!
It is application season once again, and millions of prospective students are rigorously preparing to apply to the schools of their dreams.
But this year, things are different due to the global pandemic adding an extra challenge to the already stressful application process. In such trying times, it is even more important to keep the facts straight and not fall into the trap of commonly misleading advice.
Here is a quick list of myths about colleges and college admissions that you should avoid at all costs:
1. Financial aid is only for highly successful students.
Financial aid is, without a doubt, one of the most confusing parts of the application process, and various types don’t make it any easier to understand. Now, for those who are unfamiliar with the terms:
1) Merit-based financial aid is awarded to individuals with outstanding academic, artistic, athletic, etc. achievements. This type of aid does not take into account the financial status of the student.
2) Need-based financial aid is awarded to those from low-income families who cannot pay for full college tuition and/or living expenses.
This means that if you qualify for the university or college you are applying to, you can ask for need-based financial aid and still have a chance to get in.
Please note that in case of the need-based financial aid, it is important to meet all the criteria listed by the colleges. You can typically locate said information on their respective official websites.
2. The more volunteering, the better.
This is a common misconception that is, while still quite helpful to society, not so beneficial in the application forms.
Volunteering is a great way to show your goodwill and dedication in helping the less fortunate. Nevertheless, it is of paramount importance to forth effort into activities you actually care deeply about. If you have too many volunteering projects, it will not be physically possible to successfully lead and showcase the true impact of all of them effectively.
You have to be involved enough in your projects to be able to display your innermost passion and love for them in your essays. Otherwise, minimal participation in too many organizations will be seen by the admission committee as a cheap attempt to impress them.
3. You cannot apply for merit-based AND need-based scholarships at the same time.
The right to apply for merit-based and need-based aids, obviously, depends on the institution you are aiming for since not all of them would have the means to provide their students with both scholarships. Additionally, some colleges could grant you both aids but cut off the amount given, so you may receive less than you expected.
If you are interested in this prospect, be sure to check the requirements and policies of your institution. It is a great opportunity to take fewer student loans or get rid of that necessity altogether!
4. A non-Ivy League school cannot provide me with sufficient financial aid.
Even though this may sound like a no-brainer to some, a large sector of the student population succumbs to this fallacy- especially international applicants.
The truth is, many other universities and colleges, along with Ivy Leagues, will be more than happy to assist you in your financial needs as best they can. The most prominent example is Amherst College, one of the few colleges with need-blind admission to all students (this means that they do not take your financial need into account when reviewing your application form).
Some of the less competitive colleges with great financial aid include Bowdoin College, Colby College, Barnard College, Davidson College, Pomona College, etc. — and this is just to name a few!
5. My extracurriculars must be academic.
Extracurriculars are one of the key components of any application; thus, it’s easy to believe that having all extracurriculars affiliated to the major or area of study interested will ensure admission into the college desired.
While this sounds convincing, it may not always be true. As said in the segment on volunteering (myth #2), admission officers would much appreciate the activities that intensely intrigue the candidate. If you are doing something that does not concern you on a personal level, you might want to reconsider your choice of extracurriculars.
With that being said, it is also important to make your portfolio look and feel cohesive; everything you’re involved in must have a profound reason to be on your list and be inherently tied to you or certain patterns in your life.
6. I cannot enter any colleges because I am an international student.
This myth could not possibly be farther from the truth. In today’s day and age, almost every high-education institution is striving to become more diverse and accepting of other cultures and nationalities.
There are a plethora of different programs that welcome international students and help them adapt to the US education system, as well as the laws of the country. Furthermore, there is a variety of universities that offer generous financial aid to international students as well.
7. My Common App essay should only be about my academic passions.
Writing about your own academic interests in your Common App essay might seem like a great idea, but you will most likely be dissuaded from doing so by some of the admission and school counselor (or even admission officers themselves).
Well, a myriad of universities and colleges require an array of supplemental essays in addition to the Common App essay. The supplemental essays typically ask students to discuss different parts of their lives, including their academic passions. Thus, if you already centered your main essay around your love for computer science, it will be difficult to avoid sounding repetitive (hence boring) when writing about it in your supplemental essays.
8. Letters of recommendation do not matter much.
At first glance, letters of recommendation might not seem like a significant part of your application form, but they are useful for the admission officers when evaluating you as a student.
Especially in the midst of COVID-19, recommendation letters quite possibly could play an even bigger role during the admissions process. To start with, you most likely did not have an opportunity to take the SAT or the ACT; it is possible that recommendations may substitute them in a certain way. Moreover, they give an insight into your personality and things you may be going through outside the classroom from the perspective of your mentors. These factors may be the assets your schools of choice are looking for.
9. Community Colleges are not a good choice for me.
Community Colleges are, unfortunately, far too often underestimated in the eyes of prospective students. In reality, community colleges can be a great alternative to those who want to pursue a non-traditional professional route, save money yet still receive a sufficient education, or simply ease themselves into the college environment before attending the traditional four-year program.
The regular curriculum at a college or university is not a one-size-fits-all; in fact, according to the CollegeAtlas, 56% of college students who started at a four-year college drop out by year 6 of their college career. It’s important to keep in mind that everyone is different; plan and decide your college pathway according to what works for you. Pick the environment that successfully helps you graduate on time; I mean, at the end of the day, that is the goal, right?