How Not to Choose a College
Lots of people, ourselves included, have written about how to choose a college, but very few have discussed how not to choose a college; especially the kinds of mistakes that should be avoided. So, here are a few suggestions:
1. Whether you are considering an online college or a traditional degree program, do not overlook a college or university simply because its name is not familiar to you.
2. Do not rule out a college or university, particularly a traditional institution, on the basis of their published tuition and fees. Scholarships and financial aid may greatly reduce those costs.
3. Be certain to identify and apply to at least one institution to which you are almost certain of being admitted and at which you are fairly certain you will be happy.
4. If you expect to require academic support, be certain it will be available to you at the institutions you consider.
5. Do not be lazy…consider seriously at least a half dozen colleges and apply for admission to at least three or four. Be aware that at some point during the college selection process your needs and preferences may change, so a few extra options might come in very handy.
6. Think carefully before attending a “specialty” college such as an institution which offers only business-related or science-related programs. You can ignore this warning if you are an adult student on an established career track, but students recently out of high school are highly likely to change their majors prior to completing a degree program.
7. Students considering traditional degree programs should never make a final college choice without visiting at least 2-3 institutions. Students considering an online degree program should insist on being given the opportunity to communicate with a current student.
8. Unless you want a degree only for self-satisfaction, and never hope to enhance your career opportunities with it or prepare yourself for further education, never consider an institution not accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accreditation agency. Be very wary of accreditation claims; even respectable publications such as “U.S.A. Today” run advertisements touting colleges which make deceptive accreditation claims.
9. So-called traditional age students frequently choose institutions their friends plan to or do attend. All other things being equal, there might be worse mistakes one can make, but how often are all other things equal? And, although more than 8 of 10 students attend college within three hours of their homes, there is much to be said for “branching out” if you are so disposed.
10. And now, the two very biggest mistakes one can make when choosing a college:
a. being influenced to attend a college that is not your top choice.
b. choosing to attend a college because your boyfriend/girlfriend will be there.