关于大学录取的五个迷思 Five myths about college admissions
Myth No. 1 Admissions essays don’t matter.
In 2014, Time magazine offered a startling notion to frazzled parents and anxious students worried about their college admissions packages: Those finely honed, painstakingly crafted essays “might not make a difference for your college admission chances.” After all, at some schools, the pool of applicants is much too large for every essay to be read — at the University of Pennsylvania, for instance, only 1 in 7 essays is a factor in an admission decision, according to the university’s dean of admissions.
But that doesn’t make them irrelevant. In fact, essays can be decisive when it comes to students whom admissions counselors are on the fence about. A student with borderline grades and test scores could secure a spot in the freshman class with an insightful, well-crafted essay, or be rejected because of a lousy one — or when it’s clear to counselors that an adult, not a student, has written it. And a poorly constructed essay, or one marred by punctuation and grammatical errors, can sour even a great application.
Myth No. 2 The more extracurriculars, the better.
Last year, William Hurst, writing in Inside Higher Ed, called on schools to end the “extracurricular arms race,” noting that “many American high schools push their students to excel in as many extracurricular activities as they can, often because they think this helps those students gain admission to top colleges and universities.” College counseling services such as Navigatio and Synocate, meanwhile, direct students to try out lots of extracurriculars and to list outside-the-box activities on their résumés to help them build up their applications.
This is an outdated way of approaching college admissions. When colleges and universities were thought to be seeking “well-rounded” students, applicants with long lists of curricular and extracurricular activities stood out as great candidates thanks to their broad interests. Students were expected to engage in sports, cooking clubs, debate and, of course, community service that sounded more meaningful than it really was. But about a decade ago, schools changed their focus from well-rounded students to those with hyper-developed interest in one or two subjects, which became apparent to me in the way admissions counselors answered my questions about extracurricular activities.
Nowadays, schools look for both kinds of students as they attempt, each year, to create an interesting, diverse, high-performing freshman class. That may include an applicant extremely passionate about the viola and another who plays every sport and is a member of a dozen clubs. The best way to impress admissions counselors, as always, is to authentically pursue what interests you.
Myth No. 3 Ivy League schools are the most selective.
Myth No. 4 Average grades in hard classes are better than A’s in easy ones.
“In most cases, taking an AP class and getting a B is a better choice than getting an A in a regular one,” according to the Princeton Review . Kaplan, a test-prep business, agrees. What’s more, schools often weight difficult classes more heavily when tabulating GPAs, so these tips seem to make sense.
Not so fast. Yes, colleges and universities like to see students take challenging courses in high school. But in my experience covering education, selective schools usually don’t like grades below a B, and struggling in more than one tough class is not seen as a plus. So unless students can keep their grades in higher-level courses at or over the B range, it probably makes more sense to take regular classes.
Myth No. 5 Schools don’t need affirmative action to make diverse classes.