HUANG: Please get off College Confidential

College application forums can easily become a place of misinformation and a breeding ground for unnecessary comparison.
Graphic depicting a student on College Confidential. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Graphic depicting a student on College Confidential. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Lexie Perez

Like many eager high school seniors before me, I tumbled headfirst down the College Confidential forums rabbit hole two years ago as I began my college application cycle. After long supplemental essay writing sessions and two-hour power naps to get through reading Hamlet,” I would log on to my College Confidential account, hoping to find the motivation to continue to work on college applications and get through an ever-increasing list of assignments. I would scroll endlessly through the “Chance Me” threads, which are public forums where high schoolers ask others to rate their chances of acceptance into elite universities. I would scour the responses to see what GPA and extracurricular activities would get me into the schools to which I was applying, hoping it validated my decision to apply to my dream schools.

After scrolling through forums of people boasting their GPAs, test scores and extracurriculars, I felt inferior. I thought there was no way I could possibly be accepted to an elite college when everyone applying had “better” credentials. It made me doubt that my hard work and long hours of studying for AP tests was ever going to pay off in an acceptance letter.

At first glance, college admissions forums seem harmless and helpful. There are so many mysteries and limitations when applying to college, and forums can help high school students decide which schools to which to apply and commit. These forums can also serve as equalizers for lower income students or students in lower resource schools who otherwise would not have access to the same information and college guidance as other students. 

Chance Me forums are barely regulated by College Confidential, as some comments added by site visitors are completely based on falsehood. For example, a self-identified parent in December 2022 wrote that “Vandy’s ED II admit rate was super low last year… something like 3%.” However, Vanderbilt’s Early Decision II admission rate has never been that low, and, for the Class of 2026, the rate was 10.3%. This comment is just one example of how misquoted statistics, incorrect information and fear-mongering can take hold and dissuade students from applying to top schools. The people writing these comments are usually high school students, parents and internet trolls — none of whom actually sit in the admissions office and make the decisions as to whom universities decide to admit. The people giving advice have as good of a guess as any other person. Also, the advice in the comments section is highly variable; for instance, you can find conflicting information on forums where there are disagreements on whether or not to apply with test scores. These forums further do not tell the whole story of a student’s holistic college admissions profile. The number of honors and AP classes offered at high schools across the country varies dramatically, and a student’s extracurricular activities are often dependent on their unique interests and opportunities. Comparing college essay strength is similarly almost impossible because applicants only post a brief summary of their personal essays on these forums at most

The toxicity of College Confidential is a reflection of the culture surrounding college applications. Students are so desperate for any sign that they will get into their dream school that they are willing to be vulnerable on the internet just to get the stamp of approval from a person who is not involved in college admissions. To me, this desperation seems to stem from the stress harbored by students about getting into their dream school. I’ve experienced the college application culture become less about a reflection of a student’s hard work and more about out-achieving other students. There needs to be a change in how this process is perceived, starting with these forums.

It is easy to be sucked into College Confidential because of its accessibility. Reading the synopsis of other applicants and students allows other readers to gauge how competitive they are. This seemingly endless and all-telling information bank makes students come back. 

The best thing you can do to increase your chances of getting into your top schools is to focus on yourself and your passions. Do not let the internet distract you from your dreams or make you feel unqualified.

With a raging mental health epidemic among students in America, the last thing high school students need is another mechanism to compare their background, academics and extracurricular activities to another person. A natural part of the college application process is the worry over setting oneself up for a desired career, and it is easy to look at one’s peers as competition. This comparison and stress can make students feel inadequate and have low self-esteem. The negativity in these forums can further make students doubt their qualifications. 

To current and future Vanderbilt applicants: Please stop reading College Confidential admissions forums. These online posts are from people trying to find validation and approval, and there is no way to confirm the accuracy of the information they post. The advice in the comments is from anonymous people who are most likely not qualified even to give advice. They do not know you or your story. Yes, the college admission process is flawed, and it can be tempting to turn to the internet for quick and easy advice to assuage your nerves. However, there are several resources online from college counselors and admissions officers who have more credibility than the people making comments on the forums. College Confidential forums will be more detrimental to your mental health than they will help you gain insight into college admissions. 

The best thing you can do to increase your chances of getting into your top schools is to focus on yourself and your passions. Do not let the internet distract you from your dreams or make you feel unqualified. Vanderbilt, like many other top universities, celebrates diversity of thought and experience in selecting its incoming classes. Modeling your application to the other students you see on online forums only removes what you have to offer. It would be so boring if every student on a college campus took the same AP classes, won the same awards and had the same life experiences. How could college students learn and grow with each other if every student participated in the same clubs? How could college students learn to work with people of different backgrounds after graduation if they were not exposed to those with different academic interests, hobbies and life experiences? Your application is supposed to look different because you are different. 

The people writing and responding to College Confidential forums will trick you into believing that you need a set list of accomplishments to be accepted. Consulting your intuition and the advice of the people who actually know you are healthier ways to approach college admissions than by trusting a random person on the internet. You and the people close to you don’t just see a GPA or SAT score; they also know how you overcame adversity, matured during high school and led your community, all of which are also important in college admissions. Your essays and letters of recommendation also play an important part in the college application, and College Confidential does not have that information. Anything that will cause you to doubt your identity, accomplishments and goals is not going to benefit you. 

I remember desperately trying to find any helpful tips to get into Vanderbilt as if my life, identity and validation depended on it. The most important advice when applying to college is to trust yourself, not the internet.

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About the Contributors
Jacqueline Huang, Staff Writer
Jacqueline Huang (‘26) is majoring in economics and public policy studies and minoring in business, data science and Asian studies in the College of Arts and Science. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find her trying new restaurants in Nashville. You can reach her at [email protected].
Lexie Perez, Graphics Director
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
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