Last year’s admission numbers were brutal. It was the toughest year on record to gain admission to an elite college. While it’s true that selective colleges are becoming increasingly competitive, this trend should not scare students from applying to their dream college. Instead of panicking about news headlines, Latino students must separate myth from fact to make informed college decisions. Here are three common myths debunked:
Myth #1: All Colleges Are the Same. Students mistakenly believe it doesn’t matter which type of college they attend. Meaning, as long as they go to any college, they’ll be on the road to earning a college degree. This is a myth because there are six different college tiers – all of which have different rates of graduation, tuition costs, and student loan debt. These tiers include community colleges, state colleges, public “research 1” colleges, private colleges, ultra-selective private colleges, and for-profit colleges.
And, rates of completion at these college tiers greatly vary. For example, if you’re attending a for-profit college like University of Phoenix, you only have a 14% chance of graduating in 6 years or less. Compare that to UCLA at 90%, Berkeley at 91%, and Harvard at 98%. Thanks to President Barack Obama, there are now federal laws requiring colleges to publish average graduation rates, time to graduate, average loans, and affordability. You can search for colleges online at the College Affordability & Transparency Center . But, you’d better hurry up: the Trump administration is quickly moving to remove many of these college consumer protections by 2019.
Myth #2: As Long as I Graduate High School, I’ll be Eligible for College. This myth shocks many students and parents. It’s because they falsely believe that as long as they meet graduation requirements, they’ll also meet college entrance requirements. Nope. Surprisingly, there are two different sets of requirements. One requirement earns you a high school diploma. The other requirement earns you eligibility to apply to a public or private 4-year college.
How come they’re different? It’s because not all high schools blend the two requirements together. For example, in California, we refer to 4-year college eligibility requirements as the “A-G.” As of today, only 28% of Latino high school graduates meet the A-G. Consequently, 72% of Latino high school graduates are not eligible to apply to a 4-year university. Every state is unique, so check your state to see if you’re on track with both high school graduation and college eligibility requirements.
Myth #3: Colleges Only Accept Students with Top ACT/SAT Scores. If this myth were true, colleges across the country could build their incoming freshman class within a 20-mile radius. While colleges do have an established academic benchmark, that doesn’t mean students must rank in the 90 th percentile of test takers. It means students with moderate test scores can further demonstrate potential abilities or traits such as leadership, creativity, or innovative problem solving. This 'holistic' review process is used by admission teams to assess talent by multiple means – not just SAT or ACT test scores.
And, here’s some awesome news. Many colleges have actually eliminated the requirement that applicants submit SAT and ACT test scores. Yes, it’s true! As of today, there are over 1,000 colleges and universities that do not require applicants to submit test scores for admission consideration. To view a list of 'Test Optional' or 'Test Flexible' campuses, go to www.fairtest.org. This trend has occurred because research indicates test scores do not adequately predict student performance, retention rates, or graduation status.
Bottom line – don’t believe the hype! Be informed. Separating myth from fact will help you become a successful college applicant. ¡Si se puede!
Note: We selected this Op-Ed to be published in our opinion section as a contribution to public debate. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of its author(s) and do not reflect the views or the editorial line of Univision News.