Choosing a college is truly one
of the most important decisions a student makes while still in high school. In many ways
it is a complicated process that requires investigation, deliberation and some plain hard
work. After all, there are more than 3100 accredited colleges in the United States. You
probably have good information about some, mis-information about others and no information
at all about the rest.
Relax. Choosing a college is important and
deserves your full attention. But, by taking a step-by-step approach, you can be sure of
making a good decision.
Let's begin by examining some of the myths
that surround the college-choosing process.
Myth One: An Ivy or Little Ivy College Will
Absolutely Guarantee the Rich, Full, and Successful Life.
Five years out of college--and usually a
lot sooner--a person's own qualities will be deciding whether he gets a raise or a
promotion, is courted for another job, or has the vision to see new opportunities and the
imagination to create a new career. Even if the name on his diploma helped get the first
job because it was taken as evidence of his intelligence, that would be about the limit of
its leverage because most people change jobs at least once in the first five years.
Myth Two: If You Can't Make an Ivy, a
Prestige College is Next Best Because the Name on Your Diploma Will Determine Whether You
Get Into a Good Graduate School or Do Something Worthwhile in Life.
You can't get into any medical school with
a C+ average from any name school, but you can with a B+ average and good Medical College
Aptitude Test scores from Earlham or Knox or a host of other good schools. What counts is
your record and your abilities. Furthermore, the graduate department chairman and some of
the admissions committee members are as likely as not to be graduates of little freshwater
Myth Three: A College You've Heard About is
Better, or at Least Safer, Than One You Haven't.
This is one of the worse traps of all.
There are no quality ratings of undergraduate colleges as there are of graduate programs,
and a first-rate college doesn't get its name in the newspaper simply because it has an
impact on a young mind and heart. The reaction of parents and students to such a place
often is, "I've never heard of it." If the name is familiar because the school
buys athletes and wins games, it is often more acceptable.
Myth Four: If You're in the Top 10%
of Your Class in a Good High School and Have SAT's of 1400 or Better, You Belong in an Ivy
or Little Ivy School to Get the Kind of Education You Should Have.
It is ridiculous to suppose that any group
of schools has more than a miniscule share of the quality market. Furthermore, grades and
scores by themselves do not open the Ivy or other very selective doors. They can afford to
look at the whole person, and mere grade grinds, being a dime a dozen for them, are cast
Myth Five: Millions of Dollars in Unused
Scholarships are Going Begging Every Year.
This pie-in-the-sky story has been popping
up every year for thirty years. It benefits the sellers of books on how to find
scholarships and, with the cost of private colleges soaring, has spawned a cottage
industry of so-called financial aid consultants who promise to "find" sources of
aid, help fill out the college's financial aid form as adroitly as possible, or help
shuffle assets around to appear eligible for aid. Buyer Beware!!
The truth is that there never has been more
than a fraction of the money needed and applied for every year. At least 96% of all aid is
channeled through the colleges. The financial aid office of the college that accepts you
is the best place to go for help. That's what those folks want to do, free.
Myth Six: A Good College is Hard to Get
Anyone--whether he or she is a poor
student, a problem learner, an average or a good student--can have choices of places that
will help him or her grow.
However unfashionable it may sound, it is
the quality of the undergraduate experience, not the name of it, that powers the
Myth Seven: There's One College That's
Exactly Right For Me.
The chances of your finding a
college that is absolutely perfect for you in every way are quite slim. You will find MANY
colleges that meet some of your most important needs and objectives, and where you would
Go to the