Choosing a college is an important decision. However, unfortunately, many students make mistakes during the college search and selection process. Here are 12 mistakes to avoid as you are building your college list.
1. 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. Look at prestigious colleges if you’d like, but do your research, look past the name, and figure out if it is a good fit for you.
2. Being too confident or not being confident enough
It is important to have a good mix of match and safety schools. Don’t only apply to highly selective schools and ignore the rest. Highly selective schools cannot accept all of the students who apply, even students will stellar grades and test scores. In addition, don’t assume the worse and only apply to safety schools just because you are afraid of not being admitted to other schools. Do your research and make sure you have match and safety colleges on your list, and one or two reach schools (if you want).
3. Not visiting
Colleges spend a lot of money to attract prospective students. The pictures you see in their mailings and on the college website are beautiful and are meant to make you want to attend the college. However, pictures cannot always capture the feeling you will have on campus. Before making your decision, walk on the campus and see how you feel.
4. Following others
Knowing others at a college can make the transition easier. However, just because your friend or significant other likes the school does not mean it will be a good fit for you.
5. Following legacy
Generations of your family may have attended the college. The college may even offer an extra scholarship for being a legacy. However, it may not be the best place for your. Your parents may have wonderful stories about their time at the college, but the college might be different now. If the college is a good fit, great! However, just because your family attended does not always mean it is the place for you.
6. Focusing on one thing
There are many things you should consider when looking at a college. Unfortunately, many students focus on one thing the college offers and ignores other things that should be important as well. Sure, the college has an excellent academic program for your chosen major, but does it have other things you want in a college? Don’t have a one-track mind when looking at college. Make sure you are looking at all aspects of the college.
It would be exciting to attend the games of your favorite college team as a student. However, if the college is not a good academic, social, and/or financial fit, it should not be on your list.
8. Party rumors
Some colleges are rumored to be “party schools” while other schools are known to be calmer. Students looking for a quiet college experience can find that at a “party school.” Students looking for fun can find fun at calm schools. Don’t put a college on your list or leave a college on your list just because of rumors. Do your research.
9. 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. You might just find that the college with the highest sticker price on your list is the most affordable because of financial aid.
10. Accepting a prestigious scholarship without comparing
Sometimes colleges have amazing scholarships they offer students. However, just because the scholarship amount is impressive does not mean it is the best financial aid offer. Review all of your financial aid award letters. You just might find that the college that offers less could be the least expensive. You must take everything into consideration when looking at your financial aid offers, including the cost of attendance, scholarships and grants, and the loans that are offered.
11. Going away to get away
Teenagers are notorious for wanting to move out of their homes after graduating from high school. You might be thinking you have to go away to college to get away. However, living on campus can be an option for you even if you are considering a college close to home. Get to know yourself and whether you can live far away from home. Some students can thrive away from home, while others will get homesick and will need to see their families 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.
12. Rushing the process
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 and they will only brush the surface on what the college can offer. Take your time and start your research early to ensure you find colleges that are great fits for you.
The college you attend will be the place you will attend for at least four years of your life. If you choose a place for the wrong reason, you risk not enjoying your college experience. And, not enjoying your college experience can affect your grades and your future. Therefore, make sure you avoid these common mistakes as your are building your college list and ultimately choosing the college you will attend.