With college acceptances pouring in for seniors, and juniors beginning to narrow the list down to the golden ten, it’s likely you’ve already sat through the lectures about how to choose a college that is a best fit for your future. But what are the elements to avoid? Here are a few reasons to be weary of choosing that particular school – for that particular reason.
Don’t Follow You-Know-Who. You have dated #SoAndSo for four years; six if you count the months spent checking their Facebook wall in middle school. But following your love life to college is possibly the worst reason to choose your alma mater. Deciding on which college to spend the next four years of your life should be a truly individual decision. Factoring in your high school romance will only result in making huge compromises on your future – a future that may not even include your current sweetheart past freshman orientation. As much as it may hurt to be separated from your current boyfriend or girlfriend, it is important to make a pragmatic decision based on your own personal and academic goals. In the worst case scenario, you will just have to be apart a few weeks at a time until Fall Break…and Thanksgiving Break…and then the long Winter Break (college has A LOT of breaks.) Tolerable, and you will each have space to grow and become your best selves. Great case scenario, you will grow apart relatively pain free and end up meeting a lot of really interesting and attractive new people, but you and your ex can still spy on each other via Instagram. Win win!
Don’t Choose A School Because Of Your Intended Major. Sounds contrary to what the idea of college is, right? It’s not. Most colleges offer an array of subjects that you haven’t even heard of before, but you might absolutely fall in love with and choose as a future career path. Think you want to major in business? Don’t just choose a university because they have a business studies department. You can go almost anywhere and study economics or political science (or even fine arts!) and still end up in business school as long as you fulfill several undergrad requirements. Many who end up pursuing law school studied philosophy, or even women’s studies, as an undergraduate degree. College is a chance to finally explore what’s out there after checking the high school base model off of your list. Don’t box yourself into a corner; most college students change their intended major by the end of sophomore year anyway. Think generally about your intellectual passions and seek out strong programs in the fields you may be interested in, but then be sure to test the waters and discover what you love once you get there.
Don’t Make Location A Deal-Breaker. Nervous to jet off across the country and leave mom behind? Or perhaps you never want to see your hometown again? Location is one of those factors that is important to consider, but nothing to hang your selfie stick on. If you pick the right academic and social environment for you, then it won’t matter if you are in a small town in the middle of a corn maze or on the edge of a major city – you will be so busy with interesting classes and campus social gatherings that the outside world will often just be a place to find a greasy diner on a Saturday morning. College life becomes a self-sustaining microcosm unto itself, so try not to let location be the ultimate upset or motivation for leaving home. Instead, do focus on the size of the campus itself: some students really do thrive among a larger student body and lecture style classes, while others do their best in smaller, more intimate discussion based classes and communities.
Don’t Rely On The Website. A great website is definitely an advantage when you are navigating your college choices. Trees, smiling faces, diversity, scrolling campus images, easy to navigate department pages. Sold! But don’t totally depend on the quality of a college website when you are making your decision. Websites are typically constructed by the marketing and communications department of each college, and not everyone has the same vision of what the school is in reality. Ideally, you should rely on first-hand information: Visit the schools you were accepted into one more time, if possible, or reach out to current students and ask them direct questions about that quality of their classes and campus life that your admission officer or the website can’t always speak to. Gather a variety of resources and perspectives before reaching a conclusion – yay or nay – about a college you are heavily considering.
Don’t Avoid The Sticker Prices. It is vital to consider the projected cost of room, board and tuition – the total package- when finalizing your college list and weighing your acceptance letters. While ideally you can apply to the colleges you love, getting in and paying the price is another ball game entirely. You need to be emotionally prepared not only for rejection letters, but perhaps even an acceptance with a lack of financial aid offered. The reality is, living in student debt can be a real struggle post college-bubble. Ideally, when you made your college list, you included a healthy range of possible “best fits” that also factored in some financial tiers, just in case your aid packages differ greatly. While those colleges with higher sticker prices shouldn’t scare you off from applying – you might actually get that great scholarship or large financial aid award in the end – you certainly need to be prepared should your dream school not pan out for your pocket.
Listen To Your Parents… Sparingly. This rule is perhaps the hardest to follow, because realistically, your parents are funding a large portion (or all) of your education. As stated above, you certainly need to be mindful of how much your college education is going to cost you, but you also have to feel comfortable and inspired for the next four years for any college to be a worthy investment. If you are having difficulty seeing eye to eye about what colleges you would like to apply to or attend, seek outside mediation: schedule a meeting to chat with your college or guidance counselor and include your parents in on the conversation. Always be respectful, but firm in your goals; even if small compromises need be made when it comes to cost or location. This is an important decision about your future – and ultimately, a decision that you should to take reasonable charge of. After all, if graduating high school has earned you anything, it is the right to finally make a big decision for yourself.