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Senior Year: Sorting Out The Myths

August 31, 2009 By: Julie Manhan Category: Admissions insider, Best College Tips, Get into College

There’s a belief among some students that senior year is a time to take easy classes.  Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but if you really want to go to college that’s the last thing you should do.  It seems that every year the same erroneous ideas regarding applying to college manage to make their way into students’ conversations.  They are part of what I refer to as “Hallway Mythology”.


Photo by Kevin Walter 

Hallway myths cause nothing but heartache, so please allow me to do a bit of myth busting for a few common ones you may have heard.

Myth #1- “Senior year is a time to take easy classes.”                                                                    

Reality:  Colleges look very closely to see how challenging of a schedule students take in their senior year.  They are looking for students who will be ready to do college work the first day they get there. Taking nothing but easy classes in senior year can get students out of the habit of studying, making it much more difficult for them to adjust to the amount of work they will be expected to do in college.  On the other hand, students who take a rigorous schedule of classes in senior year often find the academic adjustment to college to be much easier, which gives them more time to get involved in campus activities and to start establishing connections with their new classmates.

Myth #2 - “It doesn’t take any time to fill out a college application.”                                               

Reality:   A well done application takes time.  It takes time to gather all the info you need, to complete the short answers or essay if they are required, and to have someone look everything over for errors and omissions.  If you wait till the last minute, you won’t have time to do this because are you are going to be in a rush.  Mistakes or omissions, depending on their seriousness, could delay your admissions decision or even remove you from consideration.

Myth #3 - “Colleges won’t know if someone else writes your essay.”                                                   

Reality:   Anyone who has read a lot of essays can tell you that teenagers write very differently than adults, so it’s usually pretty simple to tell when an adult has written an essay for a student.  In addition, everyone has a unique writing style, so an essay that doesn’t “sound quite right” in the context of the rest of the application, stands out. Thanks to the addition of the writing section to the SAT and ACT, colleges can easily compare the writing style used in the application essay with that used in the test’s writing sample.  If they don’t match up, it’s going to raise some serious questions .

Myth #4 - “Teachers just need a couple of days to write a recommendation”                        

Reality:   Writing recommendations is something teachers do above and beyond all their other responsibilities.  When they, or your counselor, ask that you request a recommendation a certain amount of time before it’s due, that gives them the time they need to write the best possible letter for you.  Sure, there are some nice teachers out there who will write a recommendation for a student with very little notice, but I can assure you it will not be of the  same caliber it would have been if the student had given them more time.

Myth #5 -  “Once you’ve been accepted to a college, you can slack off in your classes.”                  

Reality:  Acceptance letters say that acceptance is contingent on their receipt of your final transcript and successful completion of your senior year.  So, if your grades drop significantly or you drop classes you indicated you would be taking, the college has the right to rescind their offer of admission.  The same holds true for excessive absences or serious disciplinary action.  Think this never happens?  I personally know four students who have found themselves in this position.  So, what do you do if you find yourself really struggling in a class and your grade is lower than might be expected?  Call the admissions office at each school you’ve applied to and explain the situation.  They will be much more willing to work with you if you are up front with them.

The key to dealing with any generalization you happen to hear in the halls  is to meet it with some  skepticism and then head directly to your school’s guidance office.  Your guidance counselor is your best source for accurate information about getting into college.