Today, you will read about five myths that you hear or read about college admissions, as well as the truth. There are more than five, so watch for more posts throughout the summer.

Myth Number 1. The best college for you is the one that will be hardest for you to get accepted. 

All of us like to feel good, that people whom we want to like us do, especially those who work for our “dream school,” whatever it may be. But “getting in” is only the beginning of a journey to a rewarding life, not the end.

Your job is to find the best school  that is the best one that will take you to what you want to do. It’s impossible to count the number of colleges that do well by their students and alumni; there are so many.

Myth Number 2.  All college admissions decisions are made without regard to a family’s financial need.

 Very few U.S. four-year colleges can either meet the full financial need for every family that has need, or charge a sticker price that is low enough that any admitted applicant can attend. More and more schools admit students on a “need aware” basis. Those who rank in the middle to the bottom of the admit pool may find themselves choosing between a financial aid package weighed towards jobs and student loans or a package where only part of the need is filled. Many schools will just deny admission to the these candidates, although an equally-qualified applicant who comes from better financial circumstance will be accepted.

Life is not fair. It’s your job to ask the school if their admissions policy is need-aware. College admissions officers should be honest about it. It’s also your job to know where your college-bound student fares in the applicant pool based on grades in college-prep subjects and test scores.

Myth Number 3. Colleges are expensive because they have bloated administrative costs and inefficiencies. 

A college education has become more expensive for many reasons. Related to students colleges and universities have added many services that they did not have in the past to help students become acclimated to a campus community and to succeed academically. If you visit any school you will see professionals who work with, for example, students with learning or physical disabilities, International students, students who are military veterans, students of varied cultures, races and sexual orientations, academic advisors and tutors. In the past these services were performed by the faculty, or not performed at all.

Yes, it costs money to have all of these professionals on a college payroll. But at the same time they help more students to earn a college degree. While you hear that less than half of all students who start college graduate within four years, the truth is that many schools, including some exceptionally large state universities have improved their freshman retention and graduation rates because these schools have added student services.

Myth Number 4. You need to be a business or science/engineering major to get a job immediately after graduation. 

Yes, graduates in certain majors are in high demand, but those graduates must have demonstrated excellence in the classroom, enthusiasm for the subject matter, and have experience that leaves a recruiter with the belied that the graduate can become a successful employee.

If you choose a major because it will “get you a job,” but you have no enthusiasm for the subject, prospective employers will catch on, and offer you nothing. If you show enthusiasm for the position you want through academics and experiences outside of the classroom, you will earn more opportunities. College admissions officers should communicate all of this to you when you meet them.

Myth Number 5. The ‘best’ colleges are the ones where graduates have earned the highest entry-level or mid-career salaries. 

Salaries are a reflection of demand for workers and the costs of living in the places where an employer does business. It’s perfectly reasonable, for example, for a pharmaceutical company to pay a higher entry-level salary to a chemical engineer who is placed in a job in Princeton,New Jersey versus the same person who is offered the very same job in Bloomington, Indiana. However, it is also reasonable for the New Jersey employer to pay the same entry-level salary to graduates of Princeton and Rutgers who are hired to do the exact same job. The smart entry-level hire checks their ego at the door and earns their keep, even if their degree is from the “lesser” school.

College admissions offices too often brag about starting salaries. This is fine when the college is, for example, an engineering-focused school that competes against similar schools that have stronger name recognition. But a college admissions decision should never be made on the premise that the entry-level salary will be higher than it would be if I chose the “lesser school.”  Consider this: suppose you have the opportunity to pay no tuition and fees each year for four years at one school, while you need to pay nearly $200,000 in tuition and fees over four years at another. The entry-level job might pay $10,000 more at the start, if s/he is lucky, to the candidate who paid the full price. That’s not exactly a better return on investment.

More myths about college admissions will be coming soon!

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