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  College Guidebook 


  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 colleges.

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 aside.

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 Into.

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 productive life.

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 be happy.

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