Image from Pexels

Image from Pexels

A growing admissions trend that’s come about over the past 2-3 years is the prevalence of “University X Class of 20XX Applicants” Facebook groups (for example, these groups could be titled, “Wesleyan University Class of 2019 Applicants”). What I’ve found since I stumbled upon these groups two years ago is that they can be both a blessing and curse, depending on if you know what they’re great for and what they’re terrible for.

Want some helping navigating how you should take in these groups? Here are some tips below.

1. There’s support and motivation.

Confused by a college’s 13 supplemental short answer essay questions? Not sure if you totally understand why a particular college is asking for certain information? These groups can be great for getting the opinions of others if you’re having a hard time tackling the more concrete parts of an application.

2. Take EVERYTHING that’s said with a grain of salt.

As we always say about every admissions website (including our own), the best piece of advice I can give is take every piece of advice with a grain of salt and DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH! These groups are almost NEVER run by admissions offices themselves (typically just current college students looking to be helpful or third-party admissions organizations), so any information on these groups isn’t coming from an admissions officer who will be reading your application or who knows the intimate details of how an admissions office picks applicants.

Also, just because a student got into a college doesn’t mean he or she knows anything about how college admissions really works. I have plenty of friends who are in “prestigious colleges” and don’t know jack squat about how their admissions office picks applicants or what they were even looking for. So if someone in one of these groups tries to pull the, “Well I got to Prestigious College Y, so I know everything about admissions and I’m an authority on the subject,” that’s a huge red flag. That’s like someone saying, “Well, I held a dollar bill once, so I totally know how to manage money and investments.” Would you really trust your life’s savings to that person? Same principles apply for your admissions process.

3. Talk to current students about student life.

These applicant groups aren’t just good for talking about the physical application; they can be awesome for getting student input and opinions to 1) make sure you actually want to apply to a school, and 2) make sure you sound knowledgeable when discussing it on an application.

4. Remember: Current students at that college can’t weigh your chances to acceptance.

One of the saddest cases I heard about things going wrong with these admissions groups was when a friend of mine this past year joined one and befriended a freshman at that college in the group. The student asked for her stats and then told her she was a “sure thing” to get into the school. For whatever reason, she chose to believe this random guy over the internet, and as you can imagine, she was devastated when she got flat-out rejected. “But a kid at the college obviously knows about the admissions office, right?!” she asked, panicked.

At the end of the day, a college’s current students weren’t in the decision room when acceptance and rejections were being doled out, nor do they officially know why they were accepted into a college. Sure, we can all surmise what got us into a school (“It was my awesome essay about Grumpy Cat!”), but we’ll never actually and truly know.

This also goes without saying, but don’t take stats advice from other applicants either. After all, what would a kid who hasn’t applied to that school or gotten in yet know about getting accepted?

5. Don’t be intimidated by other applicants.

Having now spent two decades on this earth, most of it in front of a computer screen, here’s one universal truth of cyberspace I’ve learned: People try to sound much more accomplished and cool over the internet than they are in real life. They omit certain facts and I can promise you that no one gives the full picture online. If you’re sitting in one of these groups thinking, “There’s no way I can get in amongst these impressive applicants!” I can promise you that there’s more to the story than they’re leading on.

Additionally, remember that only the tiniest percentage of a university’s applicants join these groups (and they’re usually the most admissions-obsessed kids of them all), so you’re looking at an extremely minuscule and skewed sample that by no means represents the applicant pool as a whole.

Overall, these applicant Facebook groups can be great for solidarity, support, and information. But do your own research on top of it, and don’t let anyone else dictate your admissions experience. As we’ve always said since day one, the admissions process is a crap shoot, and anything can happen.

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the author

Lily Herman is a junior at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Besides bopping around on The Prospect, Lily is a columnist for USA TODAY College (read the Quad Report, yo); an editorial intern for The Daily Muse; a contributing editor for the campus blog Wesleying; a national contributing editor for Her Campus; and an editorial/marketing intern at HelloFlo. When she is not studying or awkwardly waving at people around campus, Lily enjoys eating Sour Patch Kids and re-watching the Friday Night Lights series finale (she's Team Saracen, by the way). Also (shameless plug alert), feel free to follow her on Twitter, or email her at lherman(at)theprospect(dot)net.

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