10 Common College Admissions Misconceptions

Let’s debunk some common elite college admissions misconceptions.

As we approach summer, we thought we’d share ten common misconceptions among parents and their high school-aged children surrounding the elite college admissions process. But only ten, Ivy Coach? Why only ten? People, we blog every day of the year dating back nearly a decade and a half — including on Christmas, Yom Kippur (sorry, we’re no Sandy Koufax), and Halloween. We’ve got to spread out our thoughts! So he we go, addressing some common elite college admissions misconceptions.

10. The summer is a great time to visit colleges. We get it. Your child is off from school during the summer months but visiting colleges during the summertime doesn’t make sense as, at most elite universities, college students aren’t on campus during the summer. Instead, you’ll find high schoolers completing fancy summer enrichment programs. How can a student gauge if they like a school if they can’t see the students firsthand?

9. My child has perfect grades and perfect scores. Any college would be lucky to have her. Well, if your child is a chip off the old block, we wouldn’t be surprised if your daughter struggled mightily in the elite college admissions process. Admissions officers, like most human beings, can’t stand arrogance.

8. My child will be doing the UPenn summer enrichment program this year. It will surely help him stand out in admissions. If by stand out you mean flaunt privilege, then you’re right. But, no, fancy schmancy summer programs not only hurt applicants by demonstrating privilege and a lack of initiative but, if the student ends up applying Regular Decision, admissions officers are apt to think they applied Early to the school at which they did the summer program and didn’t get in. Now, they’re second fiddle. We’d much rather colleges in the Regular Decision round think a student was a procrastinator who didn’t apply anywhere in the Early round of admissions.

7. My child is half white and half Asian American. She will not be checking the Asian American ethnicity box because admissions officers discriminate against Asian American applicants. While admissions officers do indeed discriminate — often unknowingly — against Asian American applicants, you’re not fooling admissions officers by not checking a true ethnicity box. They can see mom’s maiden name. If mom was born in a country in Asia or studied at a university in Asia, they can see that too. Besides, admissions officers don’t discriminate on the basis of race alone. They discriminate when an applicant presents a stereotypical profile associated with that race.

6. It’s too late to get the help of Ivy Coach if my child is entering the summer before senior year. No way, it’s certainly not too late. While we take on students in eighth grade, we also regularly take on students entering twelfth grade. Heck, we even take on students who first come to us in December after decisions don’t go their way in the Early Decision / Early Action round.

5. Every elite college is looking for something different. No, every elite college looks for the same exact thing: singularly talented students who are going to change the world in one specific way. Together, these singularly talented students form a well-rounded class. And while colleges love to be loved — it’s a big reason why they ask Why College essays — the approach to get into all schools is the same. If anyone tells you differently, well, it reflects a misunderstanding of the elite college admissions process.

4. My son is a three sport athlete. This will show commitment and leadership. Colleges will eat it up. Maybe in 1982. But not in 2022. You have to ask yourself, “How is my child helping the college?” If your son is not a recruited athlete in any one of those three sports, he’s not helping the college. He’s not contributing a singular hook. He’s instead contributing well-roundedness, which is not a good thing in elite college admissions.

3. I was thinking of having a state senator send in a letter of recommendation on behalf of my daughter. Who are you trying to impress? That move is only going to render a student unlikable. Besides, can you even name your state senators? …Bueller.

2. My child goes to a top boarding school. The college counseling at the school is first-rate. Uh huh. In our experience, some of the worst college counseling is at the top boarding schools where college counselors regularly play favorites. You don’t think the school is going to go to bat for the student who is the third in his family to attend Exeter over the one-off student? If you happen to mention a school not too many Andover students put on their college lists — like a Pomona — you don’t think they’ll push it hard? Of course they will!

1. Studying Latin will be instrumental in boosting my child’s vocabulary for the SAT or ACT. Parents have been circulating this myth for over a generation with no concrete facts to support the thesis. While we have no issue with students taking Latin, studying vocabulary cards suffices (as does reading!).

 
 

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3 Comments

  • Horace Brearly says:

    “My child will be doing the UPenn summer enrichment program this year. It will surely help him stand out in admissions”. If by stand out you mean flaunt privilege, then you’re right. But, no, fancy schmancy summer programs not only hurt applicants by demonstrating privilege…

    Please explain how paying $57,970 in tuition per year, or $231,880 for grades 9-12, for your child to attend the Dalton School in NYC does not flaunt/demonstrate privilege to colleges and universities?

    If I spend $50,000+ annually for my son to attend a private school with connected guidance directors then that is not an example of wealthy privilege. However, if I spend $5,000 for my public school educated son to attend Wharton’s selective Leaders in the Business World program then that is fancy schmancy privilege? The double standard regarding what colleges define as “privilege” is concerning.

  • Matthew Cervantes says:

    Being a high school teacher, this topic is essential for my senior year students. However, the competition towards college increases to all ages, not just our newly graduated students. In regard to the reference letter comment, it definitely is something that puts our students at ease. The notoriety of a name does not have to overshadow the character of our students.

  • Benny Macanato says:

    True Answer: Fancy Schmancy school grads pay tuition bills, but summer programs indicate a ‘desperate to be noticed’ applicant trying to boost a boring resume without true passion for a worthy summer activity.

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