When it comes to choosing a college or university, you have media, internet, family and friends all wanting to tell what to look for and how. There are rankings of all kinds, family members that have gone to a specific school, friends of a friend that know all about that other college … So much information that goes in all directions. It is easy to get lost!
If you are considering going to university, you have to make sure that you keep an open mind and that you put aside any stereotypes or preconceived notions.
To help you with this, here are a few myths that you may come across and that I think you should know about:
- Universities are either good or bad.
The quality of an institution is very difficult to assess and depends on many factors. Some institutions may be better than other in some areas, but worse than others in other areas. Also, if a university is well known, it doesn’t mean that lesser known institutions are not as good or even better. What you should really ask yourself is if a specific university is good for you.
- Universities only want the “best” students.
This is so not true! First of all, admission officers work so hard to find the students they will offer an admission to. Though your transcripts might be an important part of your application file, they don’t tell everything about you and officers know that very well. This is why you are asked to write an essay, to answer questions or maybe to have an interview with the officer.
Secondly, there are other variables that might come into play and that have nothing to do with you, but with the politics of the institution. Things such the ratio of males and females, the number of international students, or of students of a certain country, ethnicity, etc…
- There is a special strategy that will raise my chances to get into my dream college
Absolutely not! As I have already said, many are the variables that admission officers take into account. You are not in control of all of them. The only useful advice is to go through your application process seriously. Make sure all deadlines are met and all documents submitted. If there is any part of the application where you can say something about yourself other than your grades, try to simply be yourself.
- I can’t make up my mind on what I want to major in, there is no way I am able to choose a university.
It’s ok if you still haven’t made any decision on your career yet. Most people at your stage haven’t! If this is the case, focus on your university experience. What else do you expect from university: academically, socially, culturally…? Remember that when you are making your choice you are not only thinking about what you want to become after you have graduated, you are also deciding on how you are going to live your next few years. Find a place that makes you happy.
- A good university is hard to get into.
I’d rather say that a brand-name university might be quite selective and make it hard to get into. While an institution that is a good fit for you is quite easy to get into. So be careful what you are looking for. Famous institutions might not necessarily be the place you want to go to, after all.
- Universities and colleges base their admissions mostly on test scores.
Before Covid came along to mess up our lives, already colleges were slowly shifting to a test-optional status. This means that each candidate had a choice wether to upload his/her test scores or not. The admission process has been more and more holistic, meaning that admission officers are more interested in knowing the candidates under different points of view. Scores are only one aspect. They do not tell everything about the kind of student and of person you are. Moreover, as of this year, most institutes have decided not to consider SAT o ACT scores as many students hadn’t have the possibility to sit the exams, because of the pandemic. This decision is likely to continue in the future.
- If I don’t get into THAT school then I am a failure.
If you don’t get into a specific university, this doesn’t mean you have failed. I have said this before, and I will repeat it: not all the boxes to tick to get into a university depend on you. Besides, your success in school is more likely to depend on you going to a school that best fits you. A place where your talents can be expressed and appreciated, where you have the right amount of challenge without stressing out and where you will have an overall positive and successful experience
- Cost will decide where I will go to university.
Though I do understand that costs might be a fundamental issue, don’t forget that many institutions have a lot of money to deliver as scholarships. Sometimes governments will give money for students that want to study abroad; and there also many ways to apply for loans to help you out.
In other words, don’t give up on a dream college for the fees, until you have asked for a financial aid program. You might be positively surprised to learn what you will be really paying at the end.