Building your college list is all about finding the colleges that are a good fit for the student. However, common myths sometimes scare students away from colleges that would be good fits for them. Therefore, I will share nine common myths you may have heard and explain why they are only half-truths or false statements.
Myth #1: Ivy League is best. Ivy League schools have the reputation that they are the best colleges in the country. However, the name, “Ivy League,” refers to the athletic conference the colleges are members of and participate. While the colleges of the Ivy League are impressive and have low acceptance rates, it doesn’t mean they are the best for you. Ivy League colleges have great professors and academics, great graduation outcomes, and great reputation. However, there are many colleges that also offer these wonderful opportunities. In addition, “best” is subjective and students need to figure out what is best for them. An Ivy League college can offer a great college education and experience, but it just might not be for you.
Myth #2: State schools are not good. Colleges funded by the states get a bad rap. There are many reasons people think less of state colleges including higher acceptance rates and lower costs. However, there are many wonderful state schools that graduate incredible students every year. In addition, if ratings are important to you (I’m not a big fan, but sometimes students like seeing the rankings), there are many state schools on the lists. State schools have many academic opportunities, lots of extracurricular activities, and active campus communities. State schools are not for everyone, but they can be excellent schools for some students.
Myth #3: Education at lesser-known colleges is inferior. Prestige and name recognition for colleges does not always come from the academics. Sometimes colleges become well known because of their athletic teams. Accredited colleges, from the smallest colleges to the most popular, have to meet the same requirements to be accredited and to continue their accreditation. Many of these lesser-known colleges have successful graduates who have gone on to do great things. Lesser-known colleges are also usually smaller, and for students who are looking for a more personal experience, these types of colleges could be great fits.
Myth #4: Higher ranked colleges are better. College rankings are based on a lot of different things, including things not related to academics. For example, student selectivity, faculty resources, and alumni giving rates are used when calculating ratings. College rankings can give you some information about colleges, but rankings do not tell the whole story. Rankings do not tell you about the personality of the college or how it will fit you. Again, highly ranked colleges are great for some students, but a lower ranked college could be better fits for others.
Myth #5: You should attend the college that is the hardest to get into. Winning in a competition can be a great feeling, and the same is true when accepted to a college that is highly selective and does not admit the majority of the students who were admitted. However, just because you are admitted doesn’t mean it is the best place for you. Instead, find the colleges where it feels right and offers everything you need for your education.
Myth #6: Private colleges are too expensive. Price tags for private colleges are typically larger than state colleges. However, the important number students and families should focus on when looking at colleges is the net price of attending. Many colleges offer very generous financial aid packages, including many that meet full financial need. Check out the net price calculators at the colleges to see if the colleges are a good financial fit before crossing them off your list.
Myth #7: I’m a top academic student – I don’t need to worry about cost. Students sometimes think that if they get straight A’s and top test scores, they will not have to worry about the cost of college. However, the way colleges award financial aid is very different. Many colleges, especially highly selective colleges, do not offer merit scholarships. Instead, many colleges only offer need-based financial aid. Some colleges offer amazing financial aid packages to high achieving students, but other things can come into play when the colleges calculate aid. Therefore, students should do their research about financial aid opportunities at the colleges they are considering.
Myth #8: You need to know your major before choosing a college. It is okay if you do not know what you want to major in. With the exception of a few majors, most majors do not require you to declare your major until sophomore year. College is a great way to explore by taking the general education classes to discover the different disciplines and careers out there.
Myth #9: You have to go away to have the “full” college experience. Moving far away from home kind of forces students to go outside of their comfort zones and get involved on college campuses. However, for some students, moving far away from, or even leaving home, is not an option. Getting involved on campus is not just for students who just live on campus, but for everyone. Your college experience is what you put into it, and if you want the full college experience, get involved. In addition, many colleges have increased their “commuter” programs to help commuter students get involved on campus.
Choosing the right college that is a good fit is important. Don’t let myths deter you from looking into colleges that could meet everything you are looking for in a college.