Acceptance to top tier colleges will be tougher in 2009 than in any other prior year in history. The population bubble combined with the Common Application – which allows students from around the world to apply online – add up to a year that breaks records.
In this competitive admissions climate many students are tempted to "fudge the facts" just a little bit on their applications. DO NOT DO IT. Colleges are beginning to check applicant's credentials. It leaked a few years ago that MIT had hired a private investigator to do random checks on applicants, and other schools have joined this practice. Some admissions officers will simply call a high school for verification if an activity, award, or claim looks suspicious. Remember, major awards are listed online in most cases so admissions folks will check that out. Same goes for rankings in sports. Be truthful about the extras you were involved in, the time you put into those extras, the jobs you held, and the awards you won. The Common Application asks for your extracurricular activities and how much time each took. Remember there are only 24 hours in a day!
On a similar note, we are often asked if students can apply to more than one Early Decision (binding) school because "colleges would never find out and it would increase my chances." The answer is a resounding NO. It's unethical and dishonest. You have to sign an agreement when you apply Early Decision that you will not apply to any other ED or binding programs. Your college counselor and parents are also asked to sign this agreement. Is it legally binding? Probably not, but regardless, you want to adhere to the rules here. You can still, however, apply rolling or Early Action as these are non-binding. (Again, Early Decision is when you apply to one school in November and hear mid December and are bound to attend if you are accepted. Early Action allows you to apply to many colleges as it is not binding. Your odds, however, are better Early Decision.)
Though typically colleges do NOT share lists of early applicants, with increased computer applications, they may start doing so, so to be on the safe side, do NOT violate any of their early policies! If you are caught, it will mean automatic rejection (for instance, if you applied single action early action to Yale and then early decision to Dartmouth – that's a no-no).
Create winning applications based on expressing who you are rather than fudging the facts to try and become someone else.