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College Admissions: 6 Biggest Lies in College Admissions

Monday, March 02, 2015

 

Are colleges pulling your tail? Don't get fooled.

Every year, families around the country flock to information sessions and campus tours at colleges. While the vast majority are wonderful, a few misleading themes tend to emerge. For guidance counselors and independent advisors, this can be extremely frustrating as we try to create a realistic picture of the college landscape. Here are a few of the items that I feel families need to be wary of:

“We look at the WHOLE student.”

A parent raises their hand in the information session at a very competitive college and says that Sally has low SAT scores or a less than perfect GPA, and wants to know if she will still be considered. The very diplomatic speaker says “We look at the whole student and all their accomplishments, not just GPA or SAT scores.” I have yet to see a kid with a 3.0 or 500s get into an Ivy League, Stanford, Duke or Georgetown unless they are a recruited athlete, just played Carnegie Hall, or their uncle donated the library on campus. Yet parents come into my office every month with the unrealistic hope that their child will now be in contention at a college that is ridiculously out of range. The truth is that colleges look at the whole student if your SATs and GPA make the cut, and the bar is VERY high at top colleges. Otherwise, you must have something AMAZINGLY compelling about you to propel you into consideration. Simply loving the guitar or horseback riding, probably isn’t going to do it.

“We only take the strongest candidates during early admissions, and most students should wait to apply during regular decision.”

Look at the numbers; at most colleges the acceptance rate is significantly higher during early action or early decision. Additionally, a large number of spots have been filled after the early round and the pool of candidates applying has increased dramatically. The reality is that in most cases your best chance for acceptance is early, and if you get deferred you have the advantage of a second review. The college also knows that they are a top choice (making you “yieldable”) which is an advantage. Most students who don’t get in early are deferred. If you are outright rejected early, then it was highly unlikely that you would have gotten in during the regular decision round anyhow because you were very far below the consideration bar.

“You need to put in a deposit NOW.”

For colleges with early action or rolling admission, there has been a growing trend to try to secure students before regular decision acceptances come out. Colleges send out a letter stating that you need to put in a deposit ASAP to secure the best dorms and classes (vs. May 1 which is the typical deadline). Knowing who will matriculate from the early pool makes it easier for colleges to assess how many students to accept in the spring, and it helps them sew up top candidates. However, the aggressive nature of the letters has gotten completely out of hand. While this practice has some advantages at a very few schools where dorms can be miles away, depositing early makes very little difference at most colleges. Also, keep in mind that double depositing is not permitted according to the terms of the Common App. So, unless there is a proven reason to send money early, wait until all your acceptances are in and then make your decision and deposit.

“Students should take the most rigorous courses possible.”

This is another common theme at campus information sessions. Parents come back obsessed with their children signing up for every available honors and AP course. The reality is that very competitive colleges do want to see honors and AP courses on your transcript. However, they don’t need to see 5 every year. And unless you are getting a B+ or above in the regular class, you should not be considering a higher level. Top colleges don’t want to see a bunch of B’s in rigorous courses; they want to see mostly A’s. So, balance your course selection to maximize your GPA while challenging yourself in your strongest academic areas. Two or three honors or AP courses a year will usually suffice at competitive colleges.

Mid 50% SAT and ACT ranges.

This is a statistic published in most college guide books and online. While the numbers are real, they are misleading for the nation’s top colleges. You need to keep in mind that last year at Harvard, 12% of the entering seats went to African American students, 13% to Latino students, 20% to Asian ,Americans and 2% to Naïtve American and Hawaiian students. Approximately 10% of the freshman class hailed from overseas. Not published are the number of spots that were given to legacy applicants, the children of faculty or staff, VIP development candidates and performing/visual arts students. Many of these groups tend to have lower SAT ranges, and If you don’t fall into one of those categories, then your SATs better be in the top 25% range at Harvard and other elite colleges.

Average high school GPA for entering freshmen.

This is another misleading statistic that comes up in information sessions, guide books and online. Sadly, it throws families off-track in both directions. The truth is that there is no standard for how colleges calculate incoming GPA. Some colleges use a weighted GPA, some use unweighted. Some colleges use just the 5 core subjects and calculate the GPA, and others use the GPA straight from the high school transcript including electives. I have seen less competitive colleges with an 80% acceptance rate publish a higher average GPA for entering freshman than highly competitive colleges like Amherst or Vassar.

As with all your major investments and life decisions, you need to do your due diligence and be skeptical of things that sound too good to be true. Most top colleges today have a large marketing machine behind them, and it takes time and knowledge to understand what is true and what is carefully crafted for the consumer.

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, individual counseling for college-bound students. http://www.collegeadvisorsonline.com

 

Related Slideshow: Top New England Colleges According to Business Insider

Prev Next

#13 Wesleyan University

Overall Rank: 49

Location: Middletown, CT

Score: 2.73 out of 5

Tuition and Fees: $47,244

Business Insider: "With roughly 2,900 undergraduates on a 316-acre campus overlooking the Conn. River, Wesleyan uses its small size to provide highly personal faculty support and customizable programs of study to students.

Business Insider's rating is scored out of 5 and is based on the results of a 1,000-person reader survey that asked how much each college will help students succeed in life. Tuition was used as a tiebreaker, with cheaper tuition pushing a school to a higher spot.
Prev Next

#12 Boston University

Overall Rank: 45

Location: Boston, MA

Score: 2.79 out of 5

Tuition and Fees: $44,910

Business Insider: "A concrete campus located in the bustling city of Boston, BU has nearly 100 study abroad programs in 23 countries, an active social media presence with more than 200 Facebook pages and groups, and 20-plus NCAA Division I varsity sports, including a multiple NCAA national championship-winning hockey team."

Business Insider's rating is scored out of 5 and is based on the results of a 1,000-person reader survey that asked how much each college will help students succeed in life. Tuition was used as a tiebreaker, with cheaper tuition pushing a school to a higher spot.
Prev Next

#11 Wellesley College

Overall Rank: 44

Location: Wellesley, MA

Score: 2.86 out of 5

Tuition and Fees: $43,544

Business Insider: "Madeleine Albright, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Diane Sawyer are among the nearly 37,000 living alumni of Wellesley College, an institute with an unwavering commitment to empowering women to make a difference in the world."

"Students are central to decision-making at this liberal arts college: They serve on major committees of the board of trustees, participate in faculty search, and contribute to strategic planning."
 
Business Insider's rating is scored out of 5 and is based on the results of a 1,000-person reader survey that asked how much each college will help students succeed in life. Tuition was used as a tiebreaker, with cheaper tuition pushing a school to a higher spot.
Prev Next

#10 Middlebury College

Overall Rank: 40

Location: Middlebury, VT

Score: 2.94 out of 5

Tuition and Fees: $57,075

Business Insider: "Renowned for leadership in language instruction and environmental studies, Middlebury emphasizes close interaction between students and faculty as the core of its education. All courses are taught by faculty members, rather than graduate assistants, and 65% of classes contain fewer than 20 students."

Business Insider's rating is scored out of 5 and is based on the results of a 1,000-person reader survey that asked how much each college will help students succeed in life. Tuition was used as a tiebreaker, with cheaper tuition pushing a school to a higher spot.
Prev Next

#9 Tufts University

Overall Rank: 37

Location: Medford, MA

Score: 3.07 out of 5

Tuition and Fees: $46,598

Business Insider: "Tufts University encourages students to pursue interdisciplinary studies at its two colleges, the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering. An overwhelming 90% of students are enrolled in the first, which boasts a liberal arts college feel in a research-rich environment."

Business Insider's rating is scored out of 5 and is based on the results of a 1,000-person reader survey that asked how much each college will help students succeed in life. Tuition was used as a tiebreaker, with cheaper tuition pushing a school to a higher spot.
Prev Next

#8 Boston College

Overall Rank: 36

Location: Boston, MA

Score: 3.09 out of 5

Tuition and Fees: $46,088

Business Insider: "Boston College jumps four spots on our list, thanks in part to its tremendous growth in recent years. Undergraduate applications have soared 75% over the past decade, and voluntary giving by alumni has increased the university's endowment to $1.9 billion."

Business Insider's rating is scored out of 5 and is based on the results of a 1,000-person reader survey that asked how much each college will help students succeed in life. Tuition was used as a tiebreaker, with cheaper tuition pushing a school to a higher spot.
Prev Next

#7 Amherst College

Overall Rank: 27

Location: Amherst, MA

Score: 3.31 out of 5

Tuition and Fees: $58,744

Business Insider: "Ranked the second-best liberal arts school in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report, Amherst College climbed four spots on our list this year."

Business Insider's rating is scored out of 5 and is based on the results of a 1,000-person reader survey that asked how much each college will help students succeed in life. Tuition was used as a tiebreaker, with cheaper tuition pushing a school to a higher spot.
Prev Next

#6 Williams College

Overall Rank: 23

Location: Williamstown, MA

Score: 3.40 out of 5

Tuition and Fees: $46,600

Business Insider: "Williams was number 27 on last year's list, but our readers voted it up to No. 23 this time around. A top liberal arts college, Williams is set to host its own TEDx conference for students and faculty in January 2014."

Business Insider's rating is scored out of 5 and is based on the results of a 1,000-person reader survey that asked how much each college will help students succeed in life. Tuition was used as a tiebreaker, with cheaper tuition pushing a school to a higher spot.
Prev Next

#5 Brown University

Overall Rank: 20

Location: Providence, RI

Score: 3.60 out of 5

Tuition and Fees: $45,612

Business Insider: "Brown is known for being the most individualistic of the Ivies, and with some of the happiest students."

Business Insider's rating is scored out of 5 and is based on the results of a 1,000-person reader survey that asked how much each college will help students succeed in life. Tuition was used as a tiebreaker, with cheaper tuition pushing a school to a higher spot.
Prev Next

#4 Dartmouth College

Overall Rank: 9

Location: Hanover, NH

Score: 3.96 out of 5

Tuition and Fees: $46,752

Business Insider: "At 4,200 enrolled undergraduate students, Dartmouth is the smallest of the Ivies. But its size has no bearing on the prestige of its programs; the school was ranked No. 1 in undergraduate teaching courses by U.S. News & World Report for the fourth year in a row."

Business Insider's rating is scored out of 5 and is based on the results of a 1,000-person reader survey that asked how much each college will help students succeed in life. Tuition was used as a tiebreaker, with cheaper tuition pushing a school to a higher spot.
Prev Next

#3 Yale University

Overall Rank: 5

Location: New Haven, CT

Score: 4.25 out of 5

Tuition and Fees: $44,125

Business Insider: "Our readers were not shy in praising Yale's hardworking professors: 'Yale is still the best ranking... school thanks to it[s] high profile faculty," one respondent pointed out. 'It's them who keep Yale in the top.'"

Business Insider's rating is scored out of 5 and is based on the results of a 1,000-person reader survey that asked how much each college will help students succeed in life. Tuition was used as a tiebreaker, with cheaper tuition pushing a school to a higher spot.
Prev Next

#2 Harvard University

Overall Rank: 3

Location: Cambridge, MA

Score: 4.42 out of 5

Tuition and Fees: $42,292

Business Insider: "For the third year in a row, Harvard has held fast at No. 3. Harvard's most popular majors (or "concentrations," as they're called there) are economics and political science, and the Crimson school has been hailed for its think-outside-the-box approach to learning."

Business Insider's rating is scored out of 5 and is based on the results of a 1,000-person reader survey that asked how much each college will help students succeed in life. Tuition was used as a tiebreaker, with cheaper tuition pushing a school to a higher spot.

Prev Next

#1 MIT

Overall Rank: 1

Location: Cambridge, MA

Score: 4.5 out of 5

Tuition and Fees: $42,050

Business Insider: "The tech school admits fewer than 9 percent of applicants, some of whom have gone on to achieve prestigious awards like Nobel Prizes, National Medals of Science, MacArthur Grants, and National Medals of Technology and Innovation."

Business Insider's rating is scored out of 5 and is based on the results of a 1,000-person reader survey that asked how much each college will help students succeed in life. Tuition was used as a tiebreaker, with cheaper tuition pushing a school to a higher spot.

 
 

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