Choosing a college is an important decision for students. The right college will be a good fit academically, socially, and financially. When students choose the right college for them, they typically do well academically and enjoy their time while on campus. On the other hand, choosing the wrong college can lead to poor grades and/or an unhappy college experience. Therefore, it is important to take your time as you research colleges and make sure the college is a good fit. Unfortunately, many students make common mistakes when choosing a college. Here are ten mistakes to avoid when choosing colleges to consider.
- Following prestige. The top colleges in the country provide excellent academic opportunities. However, colleges with lesser-known names can also provide great academic opportunities. Prestigious colleges can be a good fit for some students, but they are not for everyone. A name should not be the main reason you choose a college. You should definitely consider one of these colleges if you want, but do your research, look past the name, and figure out if it is a good fit for you.
- Not visiting. Colleges spend huge amounts of money to market to prospective students. The pictures in marketing publications and the websites are beautiful and are meant to make students want to attend. However, pictures cannot always capture the feeling you will have on campus. Before making decisions, walk on the campus and see how you feel.
- Following others. It happens all the time. Many students choose a college to attend because their best friend, sibling, or significant other is attending. However, just because someone you know likes a school does not mean it will be a good fit for you. College is the place for one to grow as a person and to discover passions. However, attending an institution that is not the right fit can be detrimental to your college experience.
- Following legacy. Generations of your family may have attended a particular college. The college may even make the offer more attractive with special scholarships because your parents attended. However, it may not be the best place for you. Your parents may have wonderful stories about their time in college, but it may not be the same place. Colleges get their personality from many different things, including the people who make up the population. The people at the college have probably changed since your family attended the school and it could a different place. If the school is a good fit, great! However, just because your family attended does not always means it’s the place for you.
- Focusing on one aspect of the college. Most of us have priorities, but sometimes one thing is the most important to us. Unfortunately, many students follow that number one priority and forget everything else they will need or want in a college. Before making your college list, figure out all of the things you need and want in a college and then make your college list. Do your best to find colleges that meet all of your requirements, not just your first priority. Priorities sometimes change; make sure all of your priorities are met.
- Choosing a college based on your major. You may not believe it right now, but you might change your major. I changed my major in college, and so do more than 50 percent of students. It happens. Therefore, when considering colleges, think about the different disciplines you like and enjoy. If you have a few subjects you enjoy and could potentially consider, try to find colleges that have all of those majors.
- Believing “sticker price” is actual price. Sticker price is the published price to attend a college. However, millions of dollars in financial aid is awarded to college students every year by these colleges. Before taking a college off your list, review the net price calculator at all of the colleges you are considering and see how much financial aid you could potentially be offered. There is even a chance a private college with a high sticker price could be less expensive than a public institution.
- Letting family dictate college choice. Parents want the best for their children and sometimes try to take the driver’s seat in the college search and admissions process. However, your parents are not the ones attending college. Therefore, while it is okay to listen to the thoughts and opinions of your parents, explore the colleges yourself and make sure you feel it is the right fit for you.
- Going away to get away. Teenagers are notorious for wanting to move out of their homes after graduating from high school. Many think they have to go away to college to get away. However, living on campus is an option for students at most colleges, including the colleges that are close to home. Get to know yourself and really figure out if you could live far away from home. Some students can and thrive while away from home, while others get homesick and need to see their families a little more often. Both options are okay. If you find a college across the country that is a great fit, great. However, if you want to move out of your home and gain independence, moving across the country is not required. You can still live on campus and gain that independence at a college closer to home.
- Being hasty. The college search process is very time consuming when done properly. When the search process is left until the last minute, students cannot truly research and discover the wonderful opportunities colleges can offer. Instead, students choose colleges based on other criteria that are just brushing the surface of what colleges could offer. Take your time and start your research early to ensure you find colleges that are great fits for you.
The college a student attends will be a place they will spend at least four years of their life. College can be a great experience for students if they choose the right college for them. Therefore, try to avoid these common mistakes when choosing colleges.