If you're very sick, who do you seek help from? You go to a doctor, right? You don't go to a medical student or a witch doctor.
Do you seek legal advice from a lawyer or from a law student or someone who hasn't passed the Bar Exam? I'm going to take a wild guess and say you will look for someone legally qualified to give legal advice.
So why should you treat US college admission advice any different?
Over the past few weeks, I've been aghast, frustrated and downright alarmed at the casual attitude most candidates have about where they get their college advice from. I'll give you some for examples.
I had a client tell me that they decided to seek advice from a cousin "who has experience applying abroad." I was flabbergasted. Experience applying abroad? What does that even mean? If I have experience with cancer, does that make me an oncologist? Absolutely ludicrous.
Most applicants like to get their advice from their peers. I can understand that, it must be more comfortable for them to talk to someone who is at their level instead of someone a generation (or two) older than they are. Even here, they have to be careful. These peers, who are international students themselves at universities in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK, hand out free college admission advice. But are they qualified to give such advice? No, they are not. Don't get me wrong, current students and recent alumni are great resources FOR THE SCHOOL THEY ARE CURRENTLY ATTENDING. The problem is that they don't know much else about colleges beyond their own and maybe the six to ten others they applied to. Does that qualify them to help you find the right college for you? Not really. They also don't update their knowledge about colleges and the admission process and they don't do professional development the way professional counselors do.
More than a few times, these students give absolutely wrong advice. Here are some doozies I heard at a study abroad conference recently.
1. You can take advantage of SAT super scoring (super scoring is the policy some colleges have of taking the best Critical Reading score and the best Math score from multiple SAT administrations. Think of it like a Greatest Hits album) like this: take the test the first time and concentrate only on (study for) the Critical Reading and punt the Math. Take the test a second time and do the opposite, i.e. punt Critical Reading and concentrate on the Math. This way you'll maximize your Critical Reading and Math SAT scores.
Wrong! First of all, not all colleges superscore. But most importantly, colleges hate it when you game or artificially manipulate their application process. This is classic gaming and manipulation. A fellow counselor labeled this tactic "SAT suicide". It's the surefire method of getting your application to land on the reject pile.
2. Transfer applications can be more competitive than freshman applications because few students transfer (true). So when transferring from Philippine universities, simply apply as a freshman and don't tell the university abroad about the year or years in college spent here. (yikes!)
How are you going to explain the fact that you graduated high school in 2015 and you are applying as a freshman in 2017? What did you do those two years? I guess you could lie about that time and you can spin some yarn about working or traveling or some such thing. But you'll be asked to talk about or verify that time. And if they find that you've been dishonest in your application, not only will you be rejected but if you've been admitted, they'll rescind their admission offer. They are such sticklers about this honesty thing. Bottom line: if you've attended college and gotten credit, you must apply as a transfer.
But bad advice comes not just from students. Some so-called counselors here have a bad attitude. These are the ones who claim to give advice to get you into the most competitive, sought after universities in the U.S. (read, the Ivy League, Stanford, and other brand name schools). Because their magic is so sought after, they have no qualms about charging an arm, a leg, and your head and neck as well. Consultation fees of up to a million pesos is not unheard of with these people. They will proceed to package the student to such an extent that the packaged applicant bears no resemblance to the actual student. It's insulting to think that admissions officers won't see through all this. If you take away only one thing from my blogs about what US college admissions officers want, it is this: authenticity. If a student is authentic it doesn't guarantee admission. But if they sense a student is packaged or unauthentic then they will reject. Sure, a few will slip through but most will not.
Along with these are those who offer SAT training for an enormous sum. As I've stated in a previous post, SAT scores, while important, are only a support for your grades. Stellar SAT scores, by themselves, will not get you into a brand name school. By all means, study and prepare for the SAT and try to get the best score you can. But you certainly should not spend an inordinate amount of money on these hucksters who sell the snake oil of high SAT score equals automatic admission to Stanford.
So mind where you get your advice from. When it comes to college applications, see a qualified college counselor.