Choosing a College for All the Wrong Reasons


by Suzanne Shaffer, Parent Editor

Since choosing a college is an important decision, you want to be sure that you and your teen use the right criteria. When you put all your time, effort and hard earned money into sending your teen off to college, you want to be reasonably sure it’s the right college for them.

Choosing a college for all the wrong reasons

Here are some commonly used criteria for choosing a college. As you can see, using them might cause some regret in the future:

  • Going to the same school a boyfriend or girlfriend is going to—The danger here is obvious. High school romances rarely last and once the romance ends, so does the love for the college.
  • Only look at the colleges your best friend is viewing—Friendships, while many last a lifetime, are no reason to make a college choice. Friends oftentimes have different educational goals and career paths. I saw many college friend explosions over the years when my kids were in school. It taints your view of the environment.
  • Choose a college because you love their football team—Being a Texas Aggie fan or a Texas Longhorn fan or a Notre Dame fan is no reason to attend their college. Investigate their academic programs and choose it if it gives you the best education for your needs and for your dollar.
  • Choose a college based on its “party” ranking—You would be surprised how many students choose schools that are ranked high as a party school. They convince their parents it’s for the academics, but truthfully it is not.
  • Limiting location—Don’t just look at colleges close to home. Check out some schools that are a little further away. It will increase your options.

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  • Making cost the only determining factor—Until you have investigated how a college gives out financial aid, don’t discount pricey schools. You might be surprised at the amount of aid you receive that will offset the high tuition.
  • Not visiting a college before applying (or even accepting)Many students accept based on other students opinions or recommendations. Before you apply, visit the college to get a feel for the campus.
  • Let the choice just happen—Many teens just slide in to the most comfortable place: they got an email from someone; their friend suggests it; their parents went there. Neither of these are good reasons to attend college.
  • Pick a college to impress someone—This is not a reason to choose a college. Keeping up with the Jones’ or trying to impress your friends will only result in your teen being unhappy at school.
  • Believe that the harder a college is to get into, the better it must be—The best colleges are sometimes the ones that have a high rate of acceptance. Research is the key to finding out the benefits of these schools.
  • Assume that all colleges are the same—All colleges offer an education, but not all colleges are the same. Programs, athletics, campus life, and even teaching styles vary. All of these can affect the overall college experience.
  • Rely on someone else’s opinion—Never assume anything about a particular college until you investigate and gather information. Opinions vary and at any given time you will always find someone that loves or hates a particular school.

The only reason to choose a college is “fit.”

Is the college a good fit academically, socially, and financially? If it meets these three criteria your college experience will not only be educationally worthwhile but a great life experience.

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