Going through the college admissions process is a little like going through child birth. Young couples go from zero to 60 in a matter of weeks; at first knowing nothing and then magically knowing that this cry means their baby is hungry and that cry means a diaper needs to be changed. Parents who have recently “graduated” from the college admissions process feel as if they’ve “been there, done that” freely dispensing advice and more often misinformation.
Nervous newbies to the college admissions process, who frequently fixate on the frenzy of competitive college admissions, now find themselves capable of quoting dismal college acceptance rates in rapid-fire fashion.
In an effort to dispel many of these untruths, let’s focus on some of the most popular myths about college admissions.
1. There is one perfect college for your child. Some parents and students put so much pressure on themselves to seek out college nirvana. There is no one perfect college. There are many colleges that will offer much of what you’re looking for, but there will almost always be trade-offs. It’s important to prioritize your selection criteria. Identify where in your hierarchy each of your factors sit. How important is a strong sports environment or access to cultural opportunities, retail therapy and international restaurant options? Don’t forget to check out the academics. Identify a few different college majors and research the online syllabus to determine the depth and breadth of each department. Is there enough to keep you engaged for four years?
2. The college admissions process is just a crap-shoot, where you have no control. Unless you are planning on applying to the 50 or so most selective schools in the country, you really are in control. According to a Barron’s college guide book, “at 95% of colleges, they need you more than you need them.” The myth that you need colleges more than they need has generated angst for almost every family approaching the college admissions process. Students feel that every test score has the ability to determine their future and parents obsess about how to help their children.
3. Attending a name-brand school will make you happier and wealthier.
There is plenty of research which supports the fact that college graduates earn much more money than high school graduates ($1 million+ in lifetime earnings). But research has also demonstrated that which college you choose to attend is less defining in terms of future earnings and happiness. Jeff Mitchell, a psychologist, coined the phrase the “Harvard or Walmart” syndrome, which he describes as “a societal disease, a virus of an idea that has spread through the LinkedIn generation and its children. It is a conviction, stark and unforgiving, that one’s children will either (1) get into Harvard or (2) spend their lives working for Walmart.” No one is denying there is value in name-brand alumni connections, but colleges continue to invest lots of resources in their internship programs, career centers and alumni networks and their efforts have paid off.