College prep can be stressful, overwhelming, time consuming, and frightening. Most students look at choosing a college as one of the most important decisions in life. Unfortunately, many students make that choice irrationally and emotionally. That’s not to say that emotions shouldn’t play into the decision, but making a decision entirely based on emotion could be a huge mistake.
Here are 10 scary mistakes student can make when choosing a college:
Applying to a college sight unseen
Every college is a community where students learn from each other, as well as from professors. Visiting a campus, talking to students, and observing how they live gives you a genuine feel for that college community. After you get a sense of the place, you, and only you, will be able to decide whether it’s the kind of place where you would be comfortable. Many students who are unhappy after their first year never took the time to check out the campus before they applied.
Visiting a campus without making an appointment
The most important person to see on campus is an admissions officer. He’s the expert dealing with, and providing information to, potential applicants like you. You want to leave a favorable impression at the admission office, in case you apply. So call at least two weeks before you arrive to schedule an appointment with the admissions office. Then build the rest of your visit around the appointment. Also make appointments with financial aid and with a professor in the major you are considering.
Ruling out a college because of its price tag
This is probably the mistake that students and parents make most often. The number one fact to remember about money is you probably won’t pay the sticker price. Two of every three students attending four-year colleges in the U.S. aren’t paying the price advertised in directories. They’re getting some kind of financial aid. Many are getting aid in the form of discounts off those five-figure prices.
Thinking that you won’t get financial aid
Financial aid is not just there to help low-income students. Much of financial aid goes out to deserving students, regardless of what size paycheck their parents bring home. They’re the smart students who get aid as an enticement to enroll at certain colleges. And billions of dollars are given away each year to average students who are neither poor nor extremely smart. But you can’t get it if you don’t fill out the FAFSA.
Making up information
Colleges are built on the foundation of honesty. If the admissions office discovers you are less than truthful about any part of your application, you’ll be dead in the water. Resist any temptation to embellish your record with a few colorful, but inaccurate items.
Missing those pesky deadlines
If a college wants your application by February 15th, get it in by late January. Your application won’t get buried with all the last minute submissions. You don’t want to have to plead with anyone to give you a break because you missed a deadline. And some deadlines just aren’t bendable. Keep track of dates using your calendar and stay on top of the deadlines.
Submitting an incomplete application
Check, double check, and triple check your applications. Make sure you have checked off every single item required. Proofread your application before you hit the “send” button online. If it’s incomplete, it will delay acceptance and affect your financial aid award.
Not paying attention to recommendations
Letters from teachers and counselors are vital components of an application and weigh heavy in the admissions decision. In marginal cases, admissions officers will read the recommendation letters to find out things about the student that they won’t find anywhere else. If you’ve done your homework and picked the right people to recommend you, these letters could give you the edge you need for your application to get put in the “accepted” pile.
Choosing a college for its reputation
Selecting a college solely for its reputation without mixing in all the other items important to you is a good way to wind up transferring for your sophomore year. Reputations are not as important as “fit”. When you find that perfect fit, you will know it.
Allowing parents to have too much control
Searching for a college, applying, and making the final decision should be yours. Your parents should be coaches, mentors, encouragers and advisors. But you should not turn over the reigns to them and let them choose your college. You will be the one attending and if you are unhappy with their choice, you will be the one who suffers. Ask their advice. Get their opinions. Consult them on the finances. But ultimately, the decision will have to be yours.
Avoid these scary mistakes when choosing a college. The college choice should be based on these three factors: academic, financial, and social:
- Is there a program of study that meets your academic demands?
- Is the college affordable and do they offer a good financial aid package to their students?
- Can you see yourself being a part of campus life there and becoming part of the student population?
Consider those three factors and you will make a wise and informed college choice.