The 8 College Admissions Myths You Need to Stop Believing, Now

A college consultant explains away these eight college admissions myths. 

8 College Admissions Myths

1. The harder a school is to get into or the higher the school is ranked means it’s a better school.

College admissions professionals from both sides of the desk will speak to “best fit” schools for students.  This involves students and families assessing their needs and wants, along with several other factors affecting the “best” school matches for the student.  (Yes, there can be several.) Ultimately, schools at which the student will be happy and successful are the best schools for them.  This varies greatly from student to student; it is a very personal and individualized decision.

Two teen girls hiding behind books

2. Standardized test scores (ACT or SAT) are the most important factor in admissions.

Actually, the number 1 most important piece of information for ALL schools is the student’s high school transcript.  Test scores can be second, third, fourth or not important at all.  Many schools are now “test optional”.  Colleges look at transcripts “within context”.  This means: in relation to other students at the same school in the same graduating class.  Also important, is whether the student challenged themselves and is successful within their capabilities and the curriculum offered. Grade trends and need for balance are recognized.

3. Being “deferred” means I probably won’t get in.

Not necessarily.  Many schools routinely defer their applicants.  What they are looking for most are strong 1st semester senior year grades, along with demonstrated interest and any new awards or accomplishments since the application was sent.

[Read Next: Turns Out, I’m the One Making Junior Year More Difficult Than it Has to Be]

4. I should go Early Decision somewhere.

If, after visiting several schools, a student falls “in love” with an institution and would forsake all others to get it, they should apply Early Decision.  ED can be beneficial for admission at some schools; however, it comes with a price.  Students who apply Early Decision agree to commit to the institution right away if accepted and withdraw their other applications, thereby giving up their right to compare decisions and financial aid/scholarship packages until May 1st  of their senior year.

5. Schools prefer the weighted GPA on my transcript.

For some schools this is true.  However, it is common for schools to re-calculate a student’s GPA with their own point scale, based solely on grades in the 5 academic areas: English, Math, Science, Social Studies and World Language.

6. If a school gives me a scholarship or invites me to their honors program and asks me to commit before May 1st, I must respond by the deadline.

Absolutely not.  Most schools belong to the National Association for College Admission Counseling and therefore must abide by their rules and regulations, which state that unless a student applies Early Decision, they unequivocally have until May 1st to respond to all offers of first-year admission and scholarship, including special programs.

As an Admissions Practices Committee Chair, it is my responsibility and that of my committee to respond to potential violations of this practice.  Should you encounter a question in this regard, please email me at

7. I should be involved in certain activities/service projects to look “well-rounded”.

Above all, schools want students to represent themselves in a genuine manner.  This includes activities and all parts of the application.  A student should follow their passions for activities, while cultivating individual commitment and leadership as they mature throughout high school.  Colleges can see through students who are “packaged”; this will hurt rather than hinder a student’s admission chances.

8. Colleges don’t really read student essays or recommendations.

Yes, they really do.  Again, they are looking for the student’s genuine voice in their essay(s) to get deeper insight into who the student really is.  It’s called a “personal” statement for that reason.  From teachers, admissions officials hope to gain knowledge as to what drives the student, their intellectual curiosity and/or how the student approaches challenges as seen first-hand by the teacher.

Photo Credit: Daytripper University 


10 Truths of College Admissions for the First Time Parent 

College Fit: What it is and Why it is so Important 

About Sandra Gilbert

Sandra Gilbert is a Past President of the Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling and current Co-Chair of IACAC Admissions Practices. She is a college consultant with Ravinia College Consulting. Sandra has helped thousands of students through their high school years and college admissions process as a former school counselor, secondary school and university teacher, college admissions officer, and university application reader. She is also the mom to 3 grown sons and has been through a very different college admission process with each of them! Both Sandra and Pat Cannon, of Ravinia College Consulting, have over 30 years each in the field. They actively tour colleges, speak and attend state and national conferences and consult with both college admissions and school counseling colleagues across the nation and abroad. They can be reached via their website at:, followed on Facebook and on twitter: @raviniacollege.

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