Applying to college can be anxiety provoking. It’s highly likely this is the first time a student has applied, it’s the culmination of high school, it’s an unknown process, and it will result in a student enrolling in an environment that is new, and perhaps, even far from home. The following are some of the most common worries about the college admissions process where the fear is often exaggerated.
A low test score among many high ones
Many students worry incessantly about a low test score (or even what they perceive to be a low test score), when all of their other scores are great. Admissions officers will look at the lower score as an “outlier” and not give it much thought. Colleges are always going to consider the highest score as that helps them too. As admissions officers say, “whatever makes you look the best, makes us look the best.”
Other students applying from the same high school
One of the most common suburban legends is the notion that “the colleges don’t want too many students from one high school.” This is just a presumption that really doesn’t hold true. While it’s natural to wonder how the other students in a class will fare in the admissions process, colleges will look at each applicant within the context of their own high school experience and what they did with it regardless of how many other students are applying.
The idea that a college “hates” or has “blacklisted a high school
Many high schools assume that if no one is admitted or their students are very rarely admitted, the college is harboring some sort of vendetta against the high school and is now punishing every applicant thereafter. This is patently absurd as admissions officers, who are educators, care about students and their success. Often, the college with the chip on its shoulder is often among the most highly selective OR has gotten more selective in recent years.
Recommendations not being positive
Recommendations are overwhelmingly positive for students by their very nature. Teachers are highly interested in their students being successful in college and in life, so they’re happy to support students in their applications. When I was in admissions, I read tens of thousands of recommendation letters and can count on three fingers how many were negative. Rest assured, if a teacher is writing about you it is in support of you and written on “your best day.” In other words, don’t fret if you just bombed a test.
College admissions officers not understanding a high school’s attributes
This is a favorite concern for parents. High schools have different teaching styles, grading scales, courses, policies, etc. Admissions officers must understand how a high school operates before evaluating the application. While that might sound daunting, there are only a few major pieces of information an admissions officer needs to know, and this information is often explained very clearly in the high school profile provided with each student’s application. Admissions officers are professionals.
The counselor sending materials on time
On the high school side, sending materials is a major task for counselors. Provided that a student has followed the procedures for telling their counselor where they need school credentials (profile, transcript, and letters of recommendation) sent, the counselor will have everything out on time. It’s understandable and perhaps irresistible for parents and students to worry, but remember counselors are also professionals.
Receiving a “we’re missing something” email from a college
If a college is missing something to complete a student’s application, the vast majority of the time the email is just a college informing a student that something is missing. Often, these emails are sent after the deadline and throw the student (and parents) into a panic. A wonderful article on this is aptly titled: “Before You Scream at Your School Counselor.” Take it from someone who has worked in admissions and on the high school side: sometimes things get misplaced. Sometimes John Smith’s transcript from Oregon is placed in John Smith from Massachusetts’s folder, and sometimes things are sent, but the college hasn’t processed them yet. Do not panic. Just send the college what they need.
This former admissions officer from the University of Pennsylvania is one of AdmissionsCheckup’s 60 former admission officers who evaluate applications before they are submitted. For more information, click here or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org