Choosing a college is far less difficult than most people think. There are just ten rules to remember.
1. Never make a final college choice without visiting at least the three or four colleges you like best. Regardless of how well you’ve investigated the colleges to which you applied, there is no substitute for a visit. Very often, students pick up critical information…sometimes good, sometimes bad…on a visit. And, bring your family with you if possible…nobody knows you better, so their observations and thoughts might be very helpful to you.
2. There are no exceptions to rule #1.
3. Don’t make the common mistake of thinking that the colleges you have heard the most about are the best colleges (or the best colleges for you). Often, the colleges students hear the most about are those closest to their homes and/or those whose athletic teams appear on television regularly.
4. Take the extra step of identifying and investigating at least three colleges you know almost nothing about but offer the major in which you are interested, are in locations you like, and have admissions criteria which make you a good candidate. You might be very pleasantly surprised at what you find.
5. There is only one thing dumber than selecting a college because your friends are headed there. It’s choosing a college or university because your girlfriend or boyfriend is headed there.
6. College-bound students often get lots of input from well meaning family and friends. Unfortunately, much of it is inaccurate. Be careful when folks categorize a college as “too expensive”, “impossible to get into”, “a party school”, “a top liberal arts school”, etc. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and people often mindlessly pass on what they hear. Find out for yourself what is true and what isn’t, and beware of people who oversimplify and over generalize.
7. In the beginning of your search, do not worry about cost. The fact is, you won’t know what a college might cost you until you find out what kinds of financial aid, if any, you might be offered. So, whatever you do, do not rule out colleges because of their cost in the initial stages of your search. And, be aware that some colleges pledge to meet the full financial need of all of their students.
8. Write down and adhere to all deadlines. Write down and adhere to all deadlines. Does saying it twice illustrate how important it is? I hope so.
9. Don’t be afraid to apply to a few “reach schools”you might be pleasantly surprised by the results if you are not entirely unrealistic. Apply to at least three colleges you like which are likely to admit you. Remember, choose these three colleges very carefully as they are the places you are mostly likely to wind up at. And, choose at least two “safety” collegescolleges to which you are virtually certain you will be admitted. Choosing “safety” schools they don’t really like is a mistake many students maketake the time to choose safety schools you would be happy to attend.
10. If, when it is time to make your final college choice, you are not sure which institution you should choose, don’t be afraid to get some help. Because the real question to be answered is in which college are you most likely to be happy and successful, solicit the opinions of those who know you well and tend to have good judgement. Once you have given some thought to their advice and come to a decision, don’t look back. Remember that the steps you have taken throughout the process almost guarantee that you have made a good choice and are on your way to four or five great years.