Debunking High School Myths
Updated: Jul 10
Current high school senior Akshay Gunarni looks back on his high school experience and shares what he wish he knew!
Myth #1: Freshman Year Doesn’t Matter
Many students assume that the only grades that matter for college admission are the ones you earn your junior and senior year. This is not always the case. In fact, this mindset could negatively impact your college admissions.
In earlier years, your grades from freshman year did not have a direct impact. However in today’s world, the number of students and applications has significantly increased, ultimately making the admissions process more competitive with the limited number of seats available. Ultimately, college admission officers have to review every detail on a student's application, and that means a bigger emphasis on your freshman year grades.
Although your freshman year grades are not the major criteria for admission, colleges do take them into account, especially more selective colleges. But, do not worry if your freshman year grades are lower than you wanted! Colleges would actually like to see you make an effort to improve your scores and see an upward trend.
Myth #2: Second Semester Senior Year Does Not Matter
Once you’ve received your acceptance letters to your dream schools, many students believe that it’s time to just kick back, relax, sleep in and skip a few classes. But this is not always the case.
Some colleges will ask for your senior year spring semester grades, even after you are accepted. If they see a drastic decline in your grades, they might assume that you’ve given up on your high school academics. In some situations, they might retract your acceptance.
It’s important to remind yourself that all your years in high school count. Once you’ve gotten your acceptance letter, celebrate, but keep it somewhere out of sight and keep a mindset that your admissions are still undecided. Continue to maintain your grades and GPA in all your classes. You’ll even be well prepared on your first day of college.
Myth #3: College Prep Starts Senior Year of High School
A lot of students tend to procrastinate this, and worry about things like researching colleges in their senior year, but this is absolutely not the case. College preparation starts the moment you enter high school as a freshman.
This is not to worry or swamp students, but to inform you so you have ample time to plan and research. It is never too early to prepare for college studies. In fact, the earlier you start preparing for college, the easier it gets.
Your freshman year should allow you to create experiences, focus on getting good grades, and committing yourself to a few extracurriculars while researching colleges. You should not have to cram everything in because there is a lot to do, like preparing and taking either the ACT or SAT, doing college visits, filling out applications, writing essays, and narrowing down your college choices. There is always a lot to do, and the earlier, you start, the easier it gets.
Myth #4: The SAT or ACT will be easier if I get good grades
There are several benefits to getting good grades: increased likelihood of college acceptances, honors, awards, and more. However, good grades does not necessarily equate to an easier time on the SAT.
Firstly, in-class work such as projects and quizzes are very different from standardized tests. These tests are timed and require stamina and preparation. Regardless of whether or not they have earned good grades up to this point in their career, students need to practice test taking strategies, understand the format of the SAT, and also practice sections which they are considered weak in.
Although there aren’t direct concept questions on the SAT (see our breakdown debunking standardized test myths), it would be helpful to review certain topics like prefixes and suffixes and how to solve systems of inequalities. This can certainly help in terms of confidence and time management on the actual exam.
It's important that all students, regardless of how much they have achieved, study well and take these exams seriously. A good time to start studying for either test would be about 2-3 months before the actual exam.
Myth #5: The Topic of Your College Application Essay does not matter as long as it is well written
It is essential to understand that when applying to colleges, you need to make your application stand out from the rest. This does not mean you should make up some crazy and fabricated story or to use a safe, generic topic.
Although it is extremely important to have things like good grammar, punctuation, spelling, and vocabulary, it is also important to choose a topic that showcases something interesting about you. Remember these college application essays can give you an opportunity to showcase yourself from the rest of the applicants and tell colleges about you. This is a chance to add a personal touch to your application; show them why they'd be lucky to have you!
Akshay Gunarni is a senior at Singapore American School currently interning for AscendNow.