College Myths Debunked

There are practically oceans of information out there about college: on the Internet, from your high school counselor, in your mailbox, from your friends and family, on billboards, in your email, etc. Some of the information is good; some of it is simply not true. Here are some common college myths in circulation—and the reality behind them:

REALITY: There are definite advantages to starting at a community college:

  • Save money: By attending a community college for your first two years, you can save up to $68,000 on your bachelor’s degree.
  • Build your resumé: Instead of just getting a bachelor’s degree from a four-year institution, starting at a community college can also provide you with certifications and/or an associate degree as you work toward your bachelor’s degree. These additional credentials can help you stand out from other applicants when you start looking for a job.
  • Explore your options: Because of the lower tuition rate, taking classes at a community college provides you with an affordable way to try a variety of different classes before you decide on your major.

REALITY: College is more difficult than high school. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but you need to go into the experience with reasonable expectations of the increased workload.

Most colleges offer tutoring centers and other resources to help you make a successful transition. Many colleges — Harper included — offer special classes for new students to help you develop the skills you need to succeed in college.

REALITY: There are many resources for financial assistance, including scholarships, grants and loans. For example, nearly 11,000 students were awarded more than $26 million in scholarships, grants and tuition waivers through Harper College in 2020–2021.

REALITY: Getting good grades in easy classes does not help you prepare for college. The more you challenge yourself in high school by taking tougher college-prep classes, the better your chances of success in college.

REALITY: The classes you take in your senior year can be very important in preparing you for college work. Every year, colleges retract offers of admission, put students on academic probation or alter financial aid packages as a result of “senioritis,” or losing academic focus.

REALITY: Your cumulative grade point average (CGPA) is made up of all your classes from freshman year through senior year. Let’s put this in perspective. Say your GPA for freshman year of high school was 2.0, and you want to attend a college that requires a GPA of at least 2.85. To raise your freshman 2.0 GPA to a 2.85, you would need to score higher than a 3.0 for your sophomore, junior AND senior years in high school. You’re better off starting strong than spending your high school years trying to catch up.

REALITY: Every student is required to complete a core set of classes known as general education requirements. These classes are an important component of your education because they help you become more broadly educated, which is important in our rapidly changing global community. However, you do have the opportunity to choose and change your major, or what Harper refers to as “Areas of Interest.”

REALITY: For most degrees, you don’t have to choose a major until the end of your sophomore year. However, it is important to use the career resources that are available to help you decide, sooner rather than later. On the other hand, you should know that some majors, especially career-oriented fields like engineering and design, require courses that have to be taken in order. Starting one of those majors after your freshman year can mean that it takes you longer to complete your degree. However, you can often begin taking classes in the field before you formally declare it as your major. Many colleges, Harper included, provide numerous resources to help you choose a major that’s right for you.

REALITY: High school students need to file a federal financial aid form (FAFSA) before a college sends out an acceptance letter. This also applies to applicants to a community college. October 1 is the first day you can file the FAFSA. File as close to this date as possible. Pay attention to your college’s priority financial aid deadlines, which may differ from state or federal deadlines.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be found online at: fafsa.gov

Last Updated: 9/28/22