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College 101

Biggest Myths
Article Type: Quick and Dirty

The Legend of the Secret Formula

Have you heard about the secret formula to get into any school? Yes? That’s funny, because there isn’t one. There is no ONE activity that you can do that will guarantee success. Think about how easy admissions would be (and also how boring schools would be) if everyone just followed the same formula. All college admissions committees are looking to build a diverse, passionate student body. What does that mean? It means, please don't feel obligated to do 500 community service hours or go to Africa for a life-changing experience just because it looks good on your resume. As long as you pursue your passions and interests, you’ll have a very high chance of getting into a "good" college.

The Myth of Quantity…Schools Want to See a Zillion Extracurricular Activitie

You may think that having a separate page to list all of your photos in the yearbook will show prospective colleges that you were a superstar. And superstar = accepted, right? Not necessarily. What schools are looking for is quality over quantity. They want to see that you are invested in a couple of activities and that you pursue them with a passion and strive for excellence. Not that you simply attended weekly meetings of 17 different clubs, but that you founded/ran/excelled in one or two.

The Legend of the Perfect School

Reality:  The perfect college doesn’t exist.  And trying to find a place that’s perfect is only going to lead to disappointment.  What does exist are hundreds of great schools where you will be challenged academically, where you will find like-minded peers to do amazing things with, where you will be pushed out of your comfort zone by students, professors, and experiences - and you will grow and see and try and do wonderful new things.  Find schools where you think you will be happy and successful, and be ready to put in the work once you get there to make it happen.

The Legend of the Late-Bloomers

Looks like a few late-bloomers are being pretty optimistic here. This legend fools people into thinking that a dismal start to high school can be erased by getting straight A’s and being in a million extracurricular activities during the end of junior year or even senior year. There is a nugget of reality here: an upward trend in performance (that is, increasingly-good grades and involvement) throughout high school shows that you struggled, but eventually learned to adjust, gained your footing, and learned to succeed.  That’s a good thing. Hanging out in the back of the room shooting spitballs and texting in your pocket for three years and then trying to make up for it senior year is a different story. That’s a bad thing.

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