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 Other sites (SparkNotes, for example) have outdated advice for the ACT, particularly for the writing section.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
Have you found really good or really bad college admissions advice on the web? Share the links in the comments!
Half of all students who require remedial coursework drop out of college without finishing their degree
The infographic below was recently shared by ACT. The facts and figures tell a sad story about the real problems with "college for all." According to the Department of Education 19% of high school freshman will not graduate. Fully one-third of those students who do graduate and go on to college do not have the skills to succeed at college and require remedial classes in college.
A Different Standard
Back in the Stone Age, when I applied to college, my application was all about proving that I was able to do college-level work. That is not the standard for admission anymore. In fact, colleges are making money from remedial courses because they cost the same as regular courses, but don't count as credit toward graduation. Remedial courses are part of the reason very few college students graduate within four years.
How Do We Know Who is Ready?
It depends a lot on whom you ask. According to ACT's survey, 90% of high school teachers believe their students are well-prepared for college. Only 25% of professors agree with them. The ACT's own benchmarks agree that 25% of the students who take the ACT are ready to do college-level work. They are most prepared in English (where the benchmark is a paltry 18 out of 36) and least in science, where only 30% of students can meet or exceed the benchmark of 23 out of 36. This is scandalous since the science section is a test of logic and reading charts and graphs, not a test of science knowledge. I once had a teacher tell me that a high score in the science section meant nothing because it was the easiest section of all.
Won't They Catch Up Once They're in College?
Probably not. Their standardized test scores, which indicate college-readiness, are already sorting them into schools with less rigorous standards. As I mentioned, students who have to take a lot of remedial classes are already off the track to graduate in four years. Not only that, half of all students who require remedial coursework drop out of college without finishing their degree. Dropping out of college leads to unemployment and under-employment as well as student debt from those very remedial classes.
What Can We Do?
Make sure your student knows how important it is to learn basic reading comprehension and math skills, no matter his or her major. Focus on developing good study skills before they get to college. Once they learn how to learn, they'll be ready for the challenge of college.
Lessa Scherrer is an college admissions consultant who has worked with college-bound students for many years. She is a member of NACAC and WACAC and also teaches ACT Prep, speed-reading, college study skills and college-level writing.
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