Choosing a college is NOT easy, there are thousands of choices for your future, and you're expected to make this HUGE life choice. Realistically, you are already making some choices through your grades and your extracurricular activities. If your dream is to attend a 4 year university and you have below a 2.0 GPA, you're going to need a new dream, the college will not accept you. If your dream is to play football at UCLA, but you only have a 2.5 , you will be watching, but not playing the game, UCLA and other UC's require a minimum of a 3.0 GPA to apply.
Let's say though that your grades are good, you have participated in sports, clubs, or other groups and you want to research your choices. To help out with the process, here are some common mistakes to avoid along the way:
1. Rushing the process. Finding the right college takes time and effort and research. 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. Putting all your eggs in one basket - Maybe you’ve wanted to go to BIG TIME UNIVERSITY since you were little and you’ve already decided there is only one right school for you. But not investigating all your options is a huge mistake. You can still attend your number one, we’re just asking you to check out the others, too. Just because you think it’s what you want doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions and, believe us, you can never ask too many! Remember, just because YOU want to go to a specific college, doesn't mean the college will accept you. Have some options.
3. Cost obsessions or carelessness. Forgetting to consider the cost 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. Reversely, 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.
4. Being a follower. Following a boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend to the college of their choice may seem like a good idea at the time because you want to be near them, but this is one of the most pivotal points in your life, too. You need to remember to make the best decisions for yourself and, if your relationships are strong, they will outlast time and distance anyway.
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 cheer them on. You can be a fan anywhere, but you can’t learn everywhere. This also applies to the players, they attend college to learn first, to play second.
6. Assuming the worst. Not applying to certain schools because you assume you won’t be accepted underrates your potential and potentially limits your future. You never know what you can achieve if you don’t try, so at least make an attempt.
7. 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, not the sole decision maker.
8. Not visiting the campus: 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 had. Also, only looking at the website or relying on a college’s advertising is a mistake because they tend to idealize college life and students get unrealistic expectations of what campus is like. It’s always better to visit and experience the college—or one very similar to it—for yourself.
9. Relying on reputation: Just because it’s a “highly-ranked”, “prestigious” or a “designer” 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.
10. 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.
11. 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 because, odds are, your major will change several times. There’s nothing wrong with that, we just want you to be prepared with a school ready to accommodate all your dreams, whatever they may be.
College Research Tools
- Big Future- College Board
- College Planning | ACT Student
- College Navigator - National Center for Education Statistics
- Peterson’s Guide to Colleges and Universities Use Peterson’s online site for alphabetical, geographical, majors lists and more.
- Princeton Review Online Provides rankings of colleges, lists of colleges and more.
- College Net Check under College search and virtual tours for lists of schools
- My College Options.org/CollegeSearch
- US News College Online Use the College planner, College search or other tools to find and rank colleges or explore the other resources available in this Educational Section of US News.
- Yahoo College Search Allows you to search for colleges by state, major, enrollment, and more.
- American Colleges Alphabetical list of colleges in the United States. Provides links to International schools.
- California State University information center.
- California Community Colleges List of community colleges with addresses, phone numbers, and Internet links.
- U.S. Universities and Community Colleges Lists of colleges, links to college and university servers.