Posted in HS4CC

Fortune Telling

Are you a fortune teller or do you just have really good instincts about college admissions?

This post is about fortune telling, but not in the way you might think. It’s not the lady in a purple robe looking into a crystal ball. In this post, we’re going to look at cognitive distortion. Cognitive distortion (the psychological term) is when we think our instincts are giving us good insight- a bit like a fortune teller. Unfortunately, this distortion comes up over and over again in college propaganda.

Fortune telling is essentially trying to “predict the future” but instead of using facts and data, we use intuition and predictions to find the truth. This is not automatically a criticism. Our brain is wired to find patterns and make associations. Often this happens so quickly that we don’t even know we’re doing it! The problem, as you’re about to guess, is that we have heard so much propaganda, marketing, myths, and extreme examples that we may end up making poor decisions… all the while thinking everything is peachy-keen.

This is not the same thing as using ACTUAL information to make an informed prediction.

Sound Predictions

  • The college requires a 3.0 GPA for admissions. My son’s GPA is 3.0, so he qualifies.
  • The college requires 3 units of math for admissions. My son has 4 units of math, so he is well-qualified.
  • The average incoming class for XYZ College has an above-average SAT score. My son’s SAT score is below average, and his chances for admission are less.
  • ABC University has a CLEP policy in its catalog. If my son passes a CLEP they accept, there is a strong likelihood that he will get college credit.

Fortune Telling

  • The college requires a 3.0 GPA for admissions. Colleges won’t believe that my son’s 4.0 is legit since I issued him the grades.
  • The college requires 3 units of math for admissions. All the prestigious homeschoolers say you should use ABC Math Curriculum if you want any chance of getting into college.
  • The average incoming class for XYZ College has an above-average SAT score. You have to take the SAT and get a high score if you want your kid to get into any college.
  • ABC University has a CLEP policy in its catalog. They also have an AP policy, and I have heard they prefer AP exams over CLEP, so we are using AP.

Why This Happens

I firmly believe that every homeschooling parent here can read and understand something like an admissions policy! But “fortune-telling” isn’t a case of not understanding something simple like a written policy, it’s a case of being fearful that what we see isn’t the whole story. That there must be more, it must go deeper, and if we don’t uncover the hidden truth, we’re going to miss something. Maybe it’s a case of college being so important, that we go to extremes? Unfortunately, the flaw here is that the truth we think we are uncovering is just fortune-telling.

Take this Test

Ask yourself one question. The answer to that question reveals whether or not you’re making sound predictions or whether you’re fortune-telling.

QUESTION: Are all the scenarios I’m predicting negative?

If all the scenarios you’re predicting are negative, you can be sure that you’re fortune-telling! Fortune telling takes us down the path of “worst-case” almost every time, and it’s not in a good way.

Tips for Making Sound Predictions

  • Gather direct evidence. Direct evidence can come from many places, and the more evidence you have, the better prediction you should be able to make. For HS4CC families, an example of direct evidence is when you refer to a published college catalog to inform and guide your actions. Using direct evidence gives you confidence in your decisions.
  • Discard circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence is when you make a prediction and then assume it is a fact. If your neighbor’s teen was not admitted to ABC College, you may draw conclusions about “why” even though the college’s rejection letter did not say why he wasn’t admitted. Perhaps you think it was because of his GPA, his lack of extracurriculars, his financial background, etc. Using circumstantial is not a sound prediction.
  • Testimonials in context. A testimonial is someone’s personal experience. As an example, this blog you’re reading reflects my personal experience. When I write that “76% of colleges accept CLEP exams and 85% accept AP” this is a summary statement based on my research. By counting colleges, calculating percentages, and reporting my findings, I can make the above statement with confidence. Based on my testimony, you might determine that the odds of a future college accepting CLEP or AP is strong enough for you to give it a try (or not) but the way to make a sound prediction is to circle back and find direct evidence! In this example, looking up the college’s CLEP and AP acceptance policy would give you direct evidence in either direction.


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit