6 College Application Myths That Can Derail Your Chances of Getting Accepted

By Lisa Bigelow on December 14, 2020

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Nothing says “fall” like pumpkins and the angst-ridden howls of harried moms who can’t get their high school seniors to just finish their college applications already.

If you’re among the lucky few – still choosing schools, polishing essays, and putting the finishing touches on your resume, congratulations! Your 13-year odyssey toward higher education is nearly complete. But before you hit “send,” check out these six myths of applying to college – and proceed accordingly.

Myth One: The interview isn’t necessary.

The interview, for decades, was a critical piece of the application puzzle – and then it wasn’t. In 2020, the interview is creeping back to relevance. And if colleges you apply to offer one as part of the application process, consider it mandatory.

Remember, the admissions officer who reviews your application only has a few minutes to get to know the real you. The interview can help you provide context while also ensuring you’re demonstrating interest. Colleges prefer to admit students who actually want to study at their institutions and who have taken the time to learn why they think that school is the right fit.

Myth Two: My portfolio is the only thing that matters.

There’s no doubt about it: a high-quality portfolio is critical to the success of your application, whether you’re an artist, a musician, a designer, or other creative. But don’t assume that you don’t need good grades and robust extracurricular activities, especially if you plan to apply to a creative program housed in a large university.

On the bright side, according to Forbes, colleges are excited when they have an applicant “who is devoted to – and excels at – something.” In other words, being passionate about your art or hobby, whatever it is, will make their entire class more well-rounded. Just don’t ignore your grades, test scores, and extracurriculars in the process.

Myth Three: Colleges don’t care if I can’t afford tuition.

It’s true that many colleges and universities review applications on a “need-blind” basis. That means they’ll consider your academic and extracurricular qualifications only, without looking at whether or not you plan to apply for aid. Some schools, however, do take your ability to pay into consideration when awarding offers of admission. Does that mean you may not get into a school if you can’t afford to pay? Possibly.

The good news is that schools are transparent about which method they use. If one of the schools you like is out of reach financially, don’t give up hope. There are countless easy-to-apply for private scholarships that you can use at any school you choose. Some don’t even require essays.

Begin the process by applying for financial aid. You don’t have to be admitted to a college to submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which qualifies you for various federal programs.

Myth Four: A higher rank means better education.

The old saying goes, life is what you make of it. And when you go to college, you can put your creative pursuits into a wide range of careers and industries. But don’t assume that just because a college on your list is ranked higher than another, that you can’t get the same quality of education at both.

“Any admissions officer worth their position knows rankings like the US News & World Report Best Colleges list are capitalistic undertakings rooted in junk science,” Jason England writes on Vox.com. Instead of focusing on rankings, instead consider whether that college is the right fit for you, financially, geographically, academically, and culturally.

Myth Five: I need VIP recommendations to get in.

If you’ve interned at the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Los Angeles Philharmonic and have fantastic career and education-related experiences to share, by all means, ask for recommendations from the folks with whom you worked. But if your best friend’s cousin’s dad is the chairman of the board of the Met and you want to leverage that connection, think again.

Colleges and universities are far more interested in learning about who you are as a student. You’re better off asking your teachers, coaches, or employers who actually know you for recommendations.

A good rule of thumb is: if you have to ask another person to get the recommendation for you, it’s not the right person.

Myth Six: What I post on social media doesn’t matter.

We can’t say it loudly enough: what you post on social media matters. A lot.

Admissions reps will check out your social accounts, so post wisely. College Express says, if your mom or dad would feel uncomfortable seeing one of your posts, you can assume admissions reps will feel the same way.

Here’s the good news. In a year, this process will be over. And you’ll be ensconced at the school that’s the right match for you intellectually, culturally, and hopefully, financially.