Word to the wise: consider your source.
People love to give college advice. It’s your job to make sure you’re getting the full story for your particular situation — from the particular school(s) to which you’ll apply.
Well-meaning friends and relatives love to share their own college admission stories. Unfortunately, many like to frame their own experiences in the form of college advice. The problem with this is that no single situation is the same as another. Admissions policies vary widely — even at the same school, depending on the situation — and so do academic degree requirements, licensing and certification criteria, etc.
Something important to keep in mind, too, is that policies change year by year, so even if your uncle the alumnus went to the school you picked, it was years ago — maybe even decades. There is a 100% chance that the admissions department has changed in some way during the interim.
Your best bet is to go directly to the school in which you are interested. Don’t just call up the main number and ask, though. If you want to learn about admissions policies, check their web site and ask the admissions department.
Don’t ask an academic department about admissions policies. It’s a rare school where departments can expertly share other departments’ policies.
When you are checking information on the Internet (ahem, yes, on sites like this one) there are many places with lots of tips. The advice is usually sound, but very general in nature — because one size never, ever fits all. Understand that it’s still on you to fully research your own future, as only you know your whole story.
So, when a well-meaning friend tells you something like, “Don’t worry about the essay, bro. I tanked mine and got in,” that does NOT mean that you’ll get into any university with a poor essay. (Also, it does NOT mean that you shouldn’t worry about the essay! Don’t worry too much, but work hard on it, ok?)
People do love to share their stories. Our advice (and, yes, we get the irony here): Enjoy their stories, smile, and then go double-check the information on your own. It’s your future, and you can handle it.