Deciding on which college to attend is a life-altering decision. It’s one of those decisions that will have far-reaching consequences – will it set you off on a life of love for what you do, or will it bring you misery and financial hardship?
Lucky for you, we’ve compiled the top five mistakes made by students when choosing a college.
5. Making your decision based on how the campus "felt" to you.
It’s definitely a good idea to visit the campus of any college you are considering, but don’t completely rely on how the campus “feels” to you when visiting. The look and feel of campus isn’t going to get you a great paying job after school.
It’s important to feel comfortable when attending college and the setting will definitely play a part in that but it can’t be the only thing you base your decision on. You have to like the academic programs offered by the school and especially take finances into account.
If you only attended a brief tour of the campus this is also going to be hard to base the next several years of your life on. A college tour is essentially a marketing tactic and highlights only the very best aspects of the school. To get a better feel, see if your top colleges offer overnight experiences in the dorms. This can give you a better feel for the college after hours.
4. Choosing based on brand name rather than substance.
There are a lot of high quality “brand name” schools out there. There are also a lot of high-quality schools you may have never heard of. Don’t just pick a school based on name recognition. Don’t think that the only way to get a quality education is to go to an expensive private school. Be sure to evaluate all options when considering schools.
Make sure the schools you are considering are quality schools. Look at things like on-time graduation and retention rates, student to faculty ratios and the percentage of full-time teachers. These qualities are all strong indicators of the quality of the school.
3. Choosing based on where your friends are going or what is convenient.
It may be convenient to live at home with your parents or attend college with a friend, but you’ve got to try your best to set aside feelings and short-term needs and focus on the long term. You won’t be happy if you just pick the closest or most convenient college. Make sure you pick a college for the right reasons. This is the time to challenge yourself and dig deep in deciding how you want the next few years to play out. Evaluate the campus, the quality of the academic program and the finances to see what makes the most sense for you.
2. Not considering how the specific program or department of the major you are interested in studying when analyzing college stats.
There are a lot of stats out there when comparing colleges, but make sure you are focusing on stats that are important to you. This is especially important when you consider your chosen major. Check to make sure the college offers your desired major, of course. But you should also check to see if the school offers strong related majors (in case you change majors or want to branch out), and see how big the department is (small schools have been known to close low-interest departments).
To easily see how strong a major is in a specific school, use College Factual's Major Search tool. Search for the major you are interested in, and then find the schools that rank highest for that major in overall quality, value, or popularity. You can also filter the ranking to location, or find only online programs.
1. Not taking finances into account.
One of the primary drivers of students dropping out of college is the lack of finances. It’s a sad truth, but many colleges front load their financial aid packages to make the college look more affordable up front than it will be a few years down the road. Make sure you understand the true cost of attending before finalizing your decision.
Fill out your FAFSA to apply for federal student aid and work with colleges you are interested in to make sure you will be able to commit to the full length of time it takes you to graduate.
Bonus: Not using College Factual's data during your search!
College Factual offers tons of data and tools to make your college search easier. And it's completely free.