The difference between what college says and what students hear

Applying for college is an understandably stressful and terrifying time. After all, you are pinning your future on getting into the right college, and that is a lot of pressure! So of course, it is only natural that students misconstrue a lot of what a college says to them during this time. Messages get lost in translation and end up causing more unnecessary worry. Here are some frequent misinterpretations.


Data can be tweaked to mean that most schools can say they are ranked high in the country for something, whether that be for student satisfaction, value for money or even best party life! It is all subjective. It is also important to remember that although a school may be prestigious, that doesn’t mean it is perfect for you. There are many different things to look at that will affect whether a school is right for you, so don’t look only at rankings, check out reviews from students, or talk to alumni. Consider all the avenues and don’t be too heavily swayed by league tables.


A one in ten chance of being accepted sounds pretty great right? Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly what is meant here. Sure, 10% of applicants are accepted, but some applicants have a higher chance of being accepted, especially if they are legacy students or athletes for example. Get a clearer picture of the data and find out whether this percentage changes based on major, geography or Early and Regular Decisions. Admit rates are often very deceptive!

Intensive coursework

If you are applying for a Selective college or university, you are right in thinking that they look to admit students with strong grades from demanding classes; however, these are reviewed in the context of the high school and the offerings that they have available. There are often other advanced curriculum offerings specific to each high school that would also be relevant. That said, remember that you need to take time to yourself. Don’t overload yourself with academic work and miss out on extracurricular activities and even sleep! It’s about getting ready for college, not merely getting in.


The College Counselor says: “We recommend adding a few more colleges to your list where it will be likely you will be admitted.” Students hear: “I am not good enough to get into college and my counselor doesn’t believe in me.”

It is hard but important to remember that a counselor’s job is to be objective and help you reach your goals, by being realistic. It would be no benefit if they encouraged you to apply for colleges that they know you would not get into. Don’t have it personally. Often they are just suggesting you give yourself more options as a safety net.

A skill you will need for college is critical listening and filtering information to find the real meaning. Start before you even get there by being aware of what colleges really mean by what they say.