Top 15 Mistakes to Avoid in Choosing a College

Don't use one of these methods to pick your college.

Shawna Newman

April 03, 2023

Top 15 Mistakes to Avoid in Choosing a College
Do what's best for you!
Choosing a college is stressful, and ensuring that you make the right decision can often feel like a daunting task. To help out with the college search process, here are some common mistakes to avoid along the way:

Mistakes to Avoid in Choosing a College

1. Rushing the process.

Finding the right college takes time and effort, not to mention research and an often-lengthy application process. Waiting until the last minute or just “falling into a college” is never a good idea. It takes the most important factor out of the equation — you.

2. Being a follower.

Following a boyfriend, girlfriend, or best friend to the college of their choice may seem like a promising idea at the time, but this is one of the most pivotal points in your life, too. You need to remember to make the best decisions for yourself. If your relationships are strong, they will outlast time and distance anyway.

3. The legacy lure.

Only considering colleges your parents, siblings, or other family members went to in order to follow them may not be in your best interest. It’s always best to explore your options and find the right fit for your personality.

4. Rebellion.

In contrast, only considering colleges your parents DON’T want you to attend isn't beneficial either. Sometimes, they have some good insight that may help you decide on what may be best for you. Don’t make your college decisions out of spite. This is sure to lead you down a path of regret. Choose a college based on what you want, not based on what someone else doesn't.

5. You’re a die-hard fan.

We've all got our favorite teams, but let’s remember that just because they have a great sports team does not mean it’s the right educational fit for you. After all, you’re there to learn, not just to cheer them on. You can be a fan anywhere, but you can’t learn everywhere.

6. The temptation to party.

So, it’s a great party school but is it a great learning environment? While you may be itching to get out on your own and party like a rock star, that’s really not what college is about. When choosing a college, it’s understandable to want a campus with a healthy social atmosphere; just be sure that it’s a setting that’s conducive to the real goal at hand: learning.

7. How a student body looks.

You've heard the student body is attractive. So what? Maybe you like this. Maybe you’re worried you won’t fit in. Either way, you should ignore these stereotypes because they probably are just that. Also, the attractiveness of a student body shouldn't really make a difference in your decision on where to get an education.

8. Assuming the worst.

Not applying to certain schools because you assume you won’t be accepted underrates your potential and limits your future. The experts, including those of us at Fastweb, recommend applying to reach schools for a reason. You never know what you can achieve if you don’t try – so at least make an attempt.

9. Location, location, location.

Whether you’re a homebody who wants to stay close or an escape artist who wants to get as far from home as possible, the location should be a factor in choosing a college. However, living at home or not should not be the sole decision maker.

10. Cost obsessions or carelessness.

Forgetting to consider the cost of college, or only considering the cost as a factor, are two major issues to avoid. While cost is a huge hurdle, there are many other factors to consider as well, and students should not be blinded by this one aspect. Be sure to consider the school offer via the financial aid package they send you in early spring. Remember you can appeal your financial aid award package , too. Students who are applying for financial aid, or whose parents are paying for college, should not neglect to think about cost completely as costs can add up quite quickly.

11. Not visiting.

Experiences are relative and one person’s dream college could be another’s nightmare. This is why going by what you've been told is never a good idea. A person very different from you could have had a positive or negative experience that you likely would not have. Also, only looking at the website or relying on a college’s advertising is a mistake because they tend to idealize college life. From this, students can get unrealistic expectations of what campus is like. It’s always better to visit and experience the college for yourself. If visiting colleges and universities is not something you have the budget to do, try checking out the campus environment via social media accounts from students spending time on campus.

12. Relying on reputation.

Just because it’s a “highly-ranked” or “prestigious” school doesn't mean it’s the right school for you. Don’t always assume that the difficulty of getting into the school equates to the quality of education you’ll receive. Some students need smaller classes and more one-on-one interaction to thrive in a learning environment.

13. Pushy parents.

Letting your parents decide which college is right for you, or being forced by your parents to attend a certain school, is not healthy. You need to think about what you want out of a college. After all, you’re the one attending the school.

14. Having a one-track mind.

Maybe you've wanted to go there since you were little and you've already decided there is only one right school for you. But not investigating all your options, like graduation rates and class sizes, is a huge mistake. You can still attend your number one choice; we’re just asking you to check out the others, too.

15. The college specializes in your current major.

That’s right, we said current. Choosing a college solely because of a specific major or career path is a major (pun intended) issue. Odds are, your major will change several times, which is very common. We just want you to commit to a school that is ready to accommodate all your dreams, and a variety of fields of study, whatever they may be. Not to add any more pressure to the process than already exists but finding and attending a college is a big deal. It’s also fun, challenging, and rewarding. With that, you need to think of it less as a choice and more of an investment in yourself. Take the college search process seriously. Do what’s best for you and commit to excelling at this opportunity you’ve been given. If you want to perform at your best in college, you’ve got to ensure that you’re choosing a college you can give your best to during your higher education experience.

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