Admission Mythbusters: The College Transitions Edition – Part 2

January 31, 2014

mythbustersI got a letter from the Dean! I’m in!

For a high school student, there is something undeniably exciting about being the recipient of an unsolicited brochure from a prestigious university, or even better yet, a personalized letter from the Dean of Admissions practically begging you to apply. Unfortunately, this material usually has about as much value as the L.L. Bean catalog that arrived in the same stack of mail.

It’s no great secret that in the age of U.S. News rankings, colleges are engaged in a never-ending battle to reject more applicants every year as evidence of their selectivity. The truth about these mass mailings is that their sole purpose is to drum up additional applicants. If you took the PSAT, chances are you’ll be inundated with “junk” mail from various colleges, regardless of your score; so, do yourself a favor:  set these solicitations aside and rely on your own research to develop a list of prospective colleges.

After receiving aid, private schools often end up being cheaper than public schools

We know what you’re thinking – You’ve seen the exact opposite statement on other internet college myth lists. This is the biggest mythological difference of opinion since the Romans ripped off all the Greek gods, changed half their names, and made them far less interesting.

Truthfully, on a case-by-case basis, either of these “myths” can absolutely be an applicant’s reality. Highly qualified students can sometimes grab enough merit aid from an institution to knock the cost down below private tuition. Likewise, students with great credentials and significant financial need can sometimes manage the same at highly selective and well-resourced institutions.

However, we’re granting apocryphal status to this idea because statistics clearly show that the vast majority of students pay significantly higher tuition at private schools than other ones. If you come from a family making a six-figure income, you’ll pay an average of $18,730 per year at a public institution and $31,090 at a private school. For different income levels, the figures vary but the disparity between public and private tuition amounts remains quite similar.

All that being said, College Transitions fully recommends that cost-conscious students still apply to the private college of their dreams. Just don’t be misled into thinking that you can cross those financial safety schools off your list and wait for your private school sugar daddy to make it rain.

Getting into a good college is harder than ever. 

Parents, educators and even a few of our fellow admissions consultants are often guilty of spreading this one. They cite dropping admission rates at Harvard, for example, to claim that earning admission into selective higher education has become practically impossible; however, they fail to account for the bigger picture.  Truth is many selective colleges have experienced slight declines in the number of applications they have received—a trend that may be attributed to a potential shortage of college-qualified high school graduates. It’s a buyer’s market, for better or worse. Moreover, increasing application numbers at other selective institutions do not necessarily indicate that earning admission has actually become harder.  As the Common Application continues to proliferate, and as savvy college recruiting strategies become more commonplace, selective institutions are receiving more applications from unqualified students who have little chance of being accepted and who ultimately do not impact a particular college’s incoming student profile. In other words, the same types of students admitted several years ago are likely the same types of students being admitted today.

Finally, the really good news: selective higher education is no longer limited to a few elite and very old institutions, and an Ivy League education is no longer the only route to a highly competitive field or top graduate school. Today, there are literally hundreds of selective and well regarded institutions that can offer an excellent education and great prospects for professional success, and many are significantly expanding the size of their freshman classes.  So, if you’re grades are good, but not good enough for a Princeton or Yale, don’t despair. You’ll still have many options.

Part 1 in our series of “Admission Mythbusters” is available here.