Which College is Right for Me?

Barry Lenson

Which College is Right for Me?

That question is on the mind of tens of thousands of high school juniors this month as they whittle down their college choices and pick the schools where they will apply.

Yet how successful will those students be in picking a college? Apparently, not very. Although hard data is difficult to find, it appears that as many as one-quarter of all American students will transfer or drop out of the schools that they first viewed as their top choices. (Even though U.S. News compiles statistics about college transfers for its annual college issue, definitive figures are hard to find.)

And this lack of success is happening, even though students and their families are trying hard to gain admission to the best colleges. Let’s consider the application process for a typical, upper-middle-class American student – a kid with all the advantages.

  • This kid’s parents take their young student to visit a dozen or more colleges.
  • They pay thousands of dollars for SAT or ACT tutoring to prepare for standardized tests.
  • The kid takes those tests two or three times, until a maximum score has been attained.
  • The parents might also hire an independent college counselor or a specialist to help craft a compelling college application essay.
  • Then when the kid gets accepted to schools, he or she goes back for at least one more visit to each of them, just to make sure that the right choice has been made.

And then after all that time and money has been invested to get into the perfect college, what typically happens? Chances are pretty good that the kid will transfer to another college or university.

So What’s Wrong with the System?

I’m going to crawl out on thin ice here and offer a few answers to that question.

  • It is hard to pick the college where you will spend four years if you only spend about two days there during the admissions process. It is kind of like picking the car you will buy by looking at one photograph of it – not by sitting in the seats or taking a test drive on different roads.
  • It is hard to know whether a college is right for you until you actually take some college courses before you start college. Sure, you might have taken some AP tests in high school. But the fact is, college courses are different. That’s why taking college courses online before you start college is such a terrific idea. It lets you try out college with no risk of failure.

So, is there a way to guarantee that the college you pick will be the right one? No, there isn’t. But the more you can learn about the college experience ahead of time, the better your chances of success will be.

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