As college application deadlines approach slowly for sophomores and juniors, it is important to build a strong application to send to colleges. Especially now, as the college game evolves from a less score-oriented decision acceptance to a holistic review, it is all the more important to begin now than ever before.
However, many students hold onto college application myths that are no longer applicable to the present. This article will address the top myths high school students consciously or unconsciously believe that may affect the quality of their application.
Image Credit: Max Fischer from Pexels
Be a Well-Rounded Student
One of the most prominent college application myths is the idea that students should be well-rounded. This is especially true for parents, who encourage their children to learn different languages, join extracurricular activities, and play multiple musical instruments. This myth may have been derived from either the prior college application system in America, or from other cultures where getting into college is not a holistic process, but rather perfect scores in every subject.
However, what colleges want is not a well-rounded student but a well-rounded student body. Of course, having a full class of well-rounded students would accomplish that. But if a college had a student body of students with excellent qualities in their own fields, it would create an exceptional well-rounded student body.
Creating a story around who you are is important in getting accepted. Are you the girl who is dedicated to helping the environment? Are you the boy who is passionate about politics?
Rather than being the jack of all trades, master one or two trades. Define yourself with a passion and stick to it.
Image Credit: IMG_1979 from Pexels
The More Extracurriculars, the Better
Many students mistakenly believe that you need to take ten different extracurriculars in order to be accepted into an elite college. They join as many clubs and organizations as possible - the more the better. In this way, they can add the most prestigious activities to their extracurricular list to show colleges that they were busy in high school and they did many things.
However, what colleges want to see is not quantity but quality. This goes with your presentation of the person you want colleges to see. You should not sign up for dozens of clubs you only participate slightly in but join three or four clubs that fit who you want colleges to see you as.
Involve yourself as much as possible in these clubs. To show the colleges you care about these organizations and made an impact, becoming club president, leading events, or leading meetings, are all ways of demonstrating involvement. Of course, joining many different clubs and being involved in them is feasible, but if you shorten your list of clubs, you can increase your level of involvement in each club and thus attain greater impact and leadership roles. Colleges don’t want a list of clubs you participated in, but a quality list of clubs you cared about and impacted.
Image Credit: Jessica Lewis from Pexels
Exam Scores Make or Break Your Application
Many students also believe that in order to get into an elite college, you need perfect grades and SAT scores. If you messed up your freshman year and your GPA drops, your chances at elite universities are over. This myth is perhaps also derived from the systems colleges from other countries run on, where how a student gets into a college is through taking a standardized test and testing into the school.
However, this myth is absolutely false. Because college applications in America are holistic, the colleges not only look at your scores, but your essays, letters of recommendation, and extracurriculars as well. If your scores are bad, you will need to work harder on your other aspects to prove to colleges that you are a good addition to their school and you will impact the world in a good way.
This may mean winning competitions in the arts field, building a business, getting internships, et cetera. Scores are most definitely not the only way to get into college, and they do not disqualify the rest of your application.
Exam Scores Don’t Matter At All
However, the other side of the spectrum is also false. Because the college application is now a holistic process, students can also misinterpret this information as the idea that exam stores do not matter at all. However, exam scores are still a huge factor in the college admissions process.
Having a bad/good score on the SAT and perfect/flawed grades in high school are still huge parts of you as a student. If your grades are bad or you’ve received worse scores than the 25th percentile at the school you’re applying to, you will need to show that you are better than students in ways other than grades. You will need to work extra hard to make the other parts of your application more impactful to make up for the weakness in your scores. Although scores and grades do not make or break your application, they still do matter and affect the strength of your application.
Image Credit: RDNE Stock project from Pexels
The More Community Service I Do the Better
Another common myth students believe is the idea of community service. They hear that colleges want to see students who are dedicated to their community and serve those around them in some way. Then they mistakenly believe that you need to go to a rural, third-world country and serve the underprivileged children there. Otherwise, they might work at the food bank or the homeless shelter for 300 hours and call it a day.
However, this is false. Doing community service solely to make your college application better will be blatantly ingenuine when written on your list. Again, college admissions officers don't look for quantity in the hours you work, but rather the quality you produce.
Do you genuinely care about your community? If going to an underprivileged country and serving families there is a way you can help, write about your experience in your application and how it impacted you as a person. Dumping community service hours into your application will look ingenuine to admissions officers without context.
One way you can do this is by asking yourself how you can serve your community in ways other than the generic ones. Anyone can work at a food bank for the entire summer and bring food to homeless shelters. But if you set yourself apart by finding a problem in society and fixing it, it will be much more impactful to your application. If the air in your area is bad, starting a non-profit and installing air purifiers around the neighborhood will set you apart from the crowd and at the same time show the college you're applying to that you genuinely care about the community.
In summary, being a student with a goal, a defining characteristic, and being genuine through uniqueness will make your college application infinitely stronger. Because the American college admissions process is now a holistic system, test scores are not the only factors in acceptance, but your personality, what you're passionate about, and the ways you impact the people around you, are important aspects as well. Good luck on your college resume-building journey! It's a long one.