Mistakes to Avoid When Finding a College Match
Learn how to steer clear of limiting choices when choosing your perfect school.
Finding a college match is all about seeking out schools that fit your wants and needs. As with anything, doing this successfully is just as much about what you should do as what you shouldn’t do. You’ll have a much better chance of finding your dream school if you avoid the following mistakes.
1. Don’t be unrealistic about your finances.
It’s important to assess your finances in a realistic way before starting your search. How much can you put toward tuition and how much aid do you really need? Having practical answers to these questions will help you narrow down your options by finding schools that you can actually afford.
2. Don’t force preferences -- be ready to balance what you want.
It’s great to get specific about what you want, but if you’re dead set on studying macroeconomics at a private school on the island of Maui you may never find what you’re looking for. Rather than looking for a school that has everything you want rank the importance of your preferences and then try finding a school that fulfills some or most of what you’re looking for. It’s important to be open to compromise!
3. Avoid focusing on family legacy and sports teams too much.
Just because your mom or dad went to a certain college or you’re a die-hard fan of a specific football team doesn’t mean that school is your only or best option. Feel free to keep the school in mind, but don’t be afraid to expand your search according to your actual preferences that relate to your education, career goals or ideal college life. If the school ends up working for your needs, great! If not, we guarantee you’ll be happy with the better options you found through your college search and matching process.
4. Don’t put too much weight on small preferences.
Be careful of getting too attached to smaller, less important preferences. For instance, it would be fun to go to school right by the beach, but if you vow to only apply to colleges that sit right on the sand you’ll miss out on a lot of great options. While smaller preferences like ocean views should be considered, they shouldn’t cause you to disregard other great options that fulfill your more important needs (like cost and the strength of an academic program).
5. Try not to use a single source to research colleges.
It’s important to use multiple sources in researching colleges because different publications and websites have different perspectives. If you’re only using, say, The Princeton Review, your view of a college is going to be entirely shaped by the publication’s perspective. It’s also important to go to the college itself for information – peruse their website and visit the campus if you can (after all, actually being there is the best way to get an accurate feel for a place.)
6. Don’t focus on prestige and rankings too much.
Choosing to solely focus on schools that are perceived as prestigious and highly ranked is one of the worst mistakes you can make in trying to find a college match. Just because other people have decided that a school is great doesn’t mean that it will be great for you. Rankings don’t take your personal preferences into account regarding location, size, cost, campus life and programs. Come up with your own ranking system based on your wants and needs and use that to evaluate whether or not a college is right for you.
You can truly set yourself up for success now that you know which pitfalls to avoid in finding a match. Now go out there and grab that perfect school!