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Image from Pexels.

Welcome to TP’s 12 Days of College Apps series, where we’ll be helping you out with your most pressing college app questions during the remaining 10 days until applications are due (December 20th-31st). Each day, we’ll feature a different post to help you suffer less and get more out of your super exciting admissions process experience. You can view all of the posts in the “12 Days of College Apps” series HERE.

So, without further ado…

On the eleventh of college apps, The Prospect gave to me…some perspective on College Confidential (since so many kids ask us about this, especially during college app go-time).

College Confidential |ˈkälij ˌkänfəˈdenCHəl|
1 The most hated forum for college admissions.

College Confidential (CC) is a website that was founded to “demystify many aspects of the college admissions process, and to help even first-timer students and parents understand the process like old pros.” And while the website has a very, very negative reputation, has it accomplished its mission statement?

I have been on CC since the beginning of ninth grade. As a first-generation applicant, I had no idea what the college admissions process was about. I wanted to understand it, to master it. Enter CC, a forum with a plethora of information (and often misinformation). I have no trouble admitting that my life changed forever.

For the first time, I realized exactly how much teenagers could accomplish if they set their mind to it. I was meeting people who founded their own non-profit organizations, were Model United Nations champions, had volunteered in orphanages across the world, were top-notch software developers, and had already been published in journals. I previously thought you had to be an adult to do any of this. In addition to that, they were taking a full-load of APs and conquered their SATs. And whether or not they were passionate about what they were doing, and I suspect they were, I was inspired. For the first time, I thought, “what can I do now to change my community?” I told myself I was going to work hard, achieve near-perfect SAT scores, and get As in every class I ever took.  For a long time, I was happy on CC.

The first blow came when I took my first SAT sophomore year.

Although my score was slightly above average, CC had conditioned me to accept nothing less than a 2300. I was crushed. My dreams of getting into an Ivy League school were over unless I could recover from this defeat somehow.

This is a common problem with College Confidential. You, as the applicant, spend time comparing yourself to people who are in a completely different situation, living a completely different life. You start to base your success on whether you can get into an Ivy League school. You deem yourself as a failure if you do not meet the expectations you have set up for yourself as a result of lurking on the forum, expectations which are often not based in reality. You devalue other people because they do not do as well as you might. This is where the stereotype of the CCer that thinks a 3.7 GPA is atrocious comes from.

It’s important to note, however, that these are problems of perception. CC may have these expectations, but it is up to you whether you accept them or not. My dream of getting into an Ivy League was not my dream, but a dream I adopted from others as a measure of success. My desire to get a ridiculously high SAT score was a bar of success I adopted. But these measures of success are artificial. They do not reflect the value of your life, experiences, and beliefs. As often as CC perpetuates these harmful ideas, you are ultimately responsible for accepting them.

After this revelation, I sat down and took a really hard look at myself. I expunged all Ivy Leagues from my list (because I honestly could not see myself at any of them) and made sure that I set measures of success that reflected who I am. I limited my time on CC junior year (especially the Chance Me sub-forum). However, I did not stay away. CC made studying for the SAT bearable, and in the end, I had a lot of fun.

I completely cut myself off senior year, however. Something felt wrong about being on the forum during college application season; I’m sure I would have had several nervous breakdowns had I stayed. I felt well-informed enough to not to be scared by the process, and now it was time to apply what I had learned. And luckily, it worked.

In the end, College Confidential made the college process much easier than it would have been otherwise. However, it did more than that; I honestly grew as a person from being on CC. The life lessons I learned are things I would never take back. If I had to do it all over again, CC, I gladly would. Thank you for being a part of my journey.

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the author

Lillian is a member of the Pitzer Class of 2017, where she is an anticipated Biology major. She is a first-generation college student that is interested in dental medicine (floss please!), mental health, visual arts, and political activism. Combining these interests, it is Lillian's life goal to heal communities on a micro and macro scale through medicine, art, and activism. You can learn more about her on her personal website. Since she will be retiring from TP at the end summer '14 in order to prepare for her study abroad in Ecuador, please subscribe to her blog to follow her journey!

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  1. TheAdmissionGuy (@AdmissionGuy) on February 28, 2014

    Lillian- Great article! One of the single most important facts a student should be aware of- College Confidential is run by Hobsons, the exact same business which runs The Common App and Naviance. All of the data and comments reside within one companies systems. As always students should be EXTREMELY careful about what they post to any social media or website. This certainly includes questions or comments made to, or discerned from College Confidential

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