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7 Common Mistakes with College Searches and How to Avoid Them

College searches

January 13 2022 - Is senior year approaching faster than you realized? Feeling overwhelmed by the prospects of applying to colleges, let alone finding colleges to apply to? Going to college is a fantastic time and allows for so much growth both personally and intellectually, but the road to getting there can feel impossible.

Looking at colleges doesn't have to feel like a no-win decision. It can be an interesting experience that allows you to learn about the schools as well as your own goals. If you avoid these common mistakes with college searches, you'll be in a much better place for the application process.

1. Rushed Decision

Procrastination is easy for everyone to do, especially with big decisions. But this is one you don't want to rush. When creating a college search strategy, be sure you note when applications are due for certain colleges and what you need to get done. If you have to choose to only apply to one of your two favorite schools because you waited too long, you could be missing out.

Don't create a time crunch for yourself. Start looking at schools early and thinking about where you'd want to live and what you'd want to study.

Do you want big classes with lots of students or more one on one time with professors in a smaller setting? Do you know exactly what you want to study or are you still deciding? Not all of the college search questions can be answered quickly so give yourself time.

2. Fun and Games

This is by far one of the biggest mistakes made with college searches. Don't look at party schools exclusively. The point of college is to learn, grow, make connections, and graduate with a brighter future in a specific field of study. You can party anywhere and at any time, so don't let it be a deciding factor in your career future.

While the location of a school can play into your application decision, it shouldn't be the only one. There is nothing wrong with moving away from home and there is nothing wrong with looking local. Consider all your options before you decide.

3. Rank Over Reason

It's tempting to apply to only the highest-ranking schools in the country, but are those schools you want to go to for four years? Ranking can be important in some decisions, but when you're first making your list for where to apply, don't allow that to determine all your options. Plenty of amazing schools that may rank lower for a variety of inconsequential reasons.

If you're looking for a Bachelor of Liberal Arts, there are innumerable schools you could attend, some ranked higher than others. But certain rankings don't always mean the school is quality or the program you want won't work best for you.

4. More Money, More Problems

Do not ignore financial aid. Part of your college search strategy has to factor in how much college costs and where you can get aid. Some financial aid, like FAFSA and federal grants, will help you at most schools, but you can also get financial aid through the university.

College is incredibly expensive nowadays and if you can avoid loans and get as much aid as possible, your future self will be in a much better position. If you know you're going into a lucrative field like law or medicine, you might be able to shoulder a few loans and pay them back, but different degrees may not have as many options once you graduate, and living in debt could become a huge burden.

When you're making your list of options for colleges, include a column about how much aid you can get and what it will cost you overall to attend. Money does matter in this decision.

5. Searching For Others Over You

When you're applying to colleges, don't only apply to places you think your parents want you to go to, or where they went. Don't only look at the same schools as your significant other, either. People grow and change and you need to look at college for your future and your career.

Not every school that has a history with your family or friends will be a great option for your goals. Try to separate other people's desires from your application list and apply to places you're passionate about.

And the same goes for the opposite side. Don't only apply to places you know your parents will disapprove of.

6. Sight Unseen

While it can be expensive and difficult to visit a bunch of different schools all in the last few months of high school, try to visit some, especially your top choices, and take college campus tours. Seeing campus and talking to students and professors can help you better understand what that school is like.

Seeing something in person is much different than looking at a pamphlet. Try to visit as many as you can, and possibly give an interview if that is something which could help your application. Not all schools require an interview, but if you know you're better in person than on paper, it's not a bad idea.

7. No Focus

You may not know exactly what you want to do when applying to colleges, but you should have a few ideas. Even if you are interested in fine arts, psychology, and economics, the places you choose to apply to should have good programs in those areas.

It's okay if you have several different interests, especially if you're looking at liberal arts schools where you will take classes across multiple fields anyway. Just be sure the colleges you like also have good programs in what you like.

Main Mistakes with College Searches

These major mistakes with college searches might feel like a lot to take in and try to avoid, but they're easy to handle. As long as you give yourself proper time to research the main schools you're interested in and weed out some of the vanity schools on the list, you'll be in a much better place.

Start the process early so you have time to compare college costs and apply for financial aid at individual schools. If you have things done early, you'll have more time to decide when it counts. And if this helped you feel more prepared for the search and application process, keep reading for more useful tips.

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