Abraham Lincoln Proven Right Once Again

Posted: March 8, 2015

Boy, there's a lot of college admissions advice available out there! Some of it is really good, some not so good. As with anything on the internet, you have to take what you read with a grain of salt (or sometimes the whole shaker.)
Take, as an example, the myriad websites offering standardized test prep. The College Board (SAT) and ACT.org offer free and low-cost information for test-takers, but it's generally pretty vague and can lead to a false sense of security. Other sites (SparkNotes, for example) have outdated advice for the ACT, particularly for the writing section. Their information was correct when the writing section was introduced, but the ACT engages in incremental revision of its test sections (as opposed to throwing out the old and starting fresh, like SAT), so prep sites that are not also incrementally revised can get stale fast. How to find a good prep site? Look for up-to-date information (on their blog, for example) and test questions that come from actual retired ACT tests to practice on.

Finding Good Admissions Advice
You could easily spend 2,000 hours reading everything the web has to offer on college admissions: which schools have the best or worst ROI, the top admissions essay blunders, how to fill out the FAFSA. Most of these articles are nothing more than scare-mongering and clickbait. The media tends to focus on what's going on only in the most selective colleges in the country. You know the ones I mean; the schools that admit students in the single-digit percentages. Nationwide, colleges average 64% acceptance--that includes those single-digit monsters as well as those schools that accept 80% of their applicants. Studies says 75% of students are able to enroll in their first choice college.
The most accurate admissions advice comes not from the HuffPo or CNNMoney, but directly from the Admissions Offices of the colleges to which you are applying. Most of your questions can be answered by searching the school's website. Or schedule an interview with an Admissions Officer.

3 Ways to Tell If The Advice You're Reading is Legit
  1. Check the source. Is it published by a college or university or does it quote someone in college admissions? Is it written by or quoting a member of NACAC (the National Association of College Admissions Counselors), IECA (Independent Education Consultants Association) or HECA (Higher Education Consultants Association)? Members of these professional organizations abide by a code of ethics and can be trusted to tell the truth.
  2. Does the advice really apply to you? There are 4,000 colleges in the US and approximately 20 (one-half of 1%) of them get the lion's share of media attention. If you're not applying to an Ivy, you can skip the hysterical "No one can get into college!" articles.
  3. Is the article trying to sell you something? Consultants selling books and seminars are probably experts in their fields, but any article ending with "Buy my book for more information!" is advertising, not journalism. Caveat Emptor.
I've vetted a few (okay, many) online resources and listed my favorites under the Resources tab in the menu bar. The list will be ever growing and evolving as I find more helpful information to share. Be sure to check back frequently!

Have you found really good or really bad college admissions advice on the web? Share the links in the comments!

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