College Applications: Fact and Fiction


Olivia Rosato, Reporter

With college admissions season in full swing—considering the impending release of early action and early decision results, as well as regular decision due dates in early 2023—it is important for students to note some key features of the college admissions process. It can be hard to distinguish what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to the tedious application process, so here are five popular college admissions myths and the truth behind them.  


1. I need straight A’s. 

First and foremost, every school has a different level of selectivity when it comes to grades and overall grade point average (GPA). Some schools, such as Ivy Leagues, will require a higher GPA for admission because of the higher-level academics. But even at the most elite universities, a perfect 4.0 GPA does not make it or break it.

A 4.0 unweighted GPA is very difficult to obtain, especially for students in honors, Advanced Placement (AP), or International Baccalaureate (IB) classes. College admissions officers know this, which is why the classes a student chooses to take are very important when looking at grades. A student who earned a B in an honors or AP/IB class is considered just as high achieving as a student who earned an A in a standard level of the same course, because colleges are aware that it is harder to earn an A in a higher-level class. The student’s unweighted GPA may be lower than that of a student in standard classes, but admissions officers take into account how challenging a student’s schedule is, and thus makes a student with a rigorous schedule more appealing to the school despite not having a “perfect” GPA.

It is still important to note that GPA is a very important factor to college admissions. The key is to take the most challenging classes while  still suiting a student’s abilities, so that high grades are attainable, especially for students intending to go to elite academic universities.     


2. I need a high SAT/ACT score. 

Standardized tests are not suited to every student’s abilities. Some people have trouble focusing for long periods of time, while others naturally excel at taking tests because of certain strategies they have learned. There is increasing doubt that standardized tests are able to fully show a student’s abilities, or are adequate predictors of a student’s success at college,  which has ushered in a less test-centered admissions process. What this means for students is that a high test score can certainly help them, but a lower score does not necessarily hurt them.

According to US News, more than 1,800 colleges have a test-optional selection, meaning students do not have to report test scores on their application at no penalty to the student. This also allows students that scored very highly to submit their scores, but only when it offers an advantage to them. However, even a high SAT score but no other unique factors that set them apart from other students does not make a student inherently appealing to a school. Some schools also give students a superscore option, where students submit their best English section attempt and their best math score. Some schools are even moving towards a test-blind option, where they do not allow students to submit test scores, instead looking at the other elements of a student’s application. 


3. I need to belong to lots of clubs.

The maxim “quality over quantity” holds true for how clubs and activities appear on college applications. Many students are under the impression that the more clubs they are a part of, the better it looks on their application. This is not always the case.

It is true that colleges want well-rounded students in order to complete a well-rounded incoming class, but this is not just about the number of activities a student participates in. Activities are a way to show colleges what you are interested in, as well as demonstrate commitment and potential leadership ability. A student that can show what they learned from their experiences in a club, team, or other activity is more appealing to colleges. 

When choosing which clubs to participate in, it is most important to choose clubs that a student enjoys and that will allow them to show colleges that they are involved in the school, capable of leadership, cooperate well with others, and are committed. 


4. I have a much better chance of getting in if I apply early decision. 

The average acceptance rate for early decision applicants is higher than for regular decision, according to Jeffrey Selingo’s book, Who Gets in and Why. However, because more and more students are applying early decision, while the sizes of incoming freshman classes are remaining the same,it is becoming increasingly competitive to get admitted, even if a student decides to apply early decision.

While colleges do accept a statistically higher percentage of applicants through their early decision application process, the advantage to applying early is getting increasingly narrow. Early decision is a great choice for students who are fully confident a school is the right fit for them, but it is less of a sure thing than it used to be.  


5. I can’t afford it.

A lot of students are reluctant to apply to colleges with higher price tags because they feel that they will not be able to afford it. However, many schools, including highly selective schools, meet 100% of students’ demonstrated financial need—according to the Notre Dame Admissions Office, themselves and the Ivy Leagues included. It is also important to note that many institutions are now “need-blind” when it comes to admissions, meaning that they do not take into consideration a student’s financial need when deciding whether to accept or reject a student’s application. In addition, most schools will waive the application fee for students with demonstrated need.

According to the US Department of Education, there is also no income cutoff for financial aid, meaning that all students may be eligible for some form of financial aid as a result of many factors besides just family income. Besides need-based financial aid, there are several regional and national opportunities to apply for scholarships and other financial aid in order for students to attend college. Regardless of a student’s financial status, they are encouraged to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) available through the U.S. Department of Education. 


The college application season is stressful for students across the globe, not helped by misinformation about the process itself. The most important thing to remember is that colleges are looking for unique, well-rounded individuals, and that it does not look the same for every student at every school. Prospective students should also consider what schools will be a good fit for them when applying, taking into account every element from program offerings to social fit. There are good schools for every student seeking a college education!