Which College Is Right for You?

Barry Lenson

Which College is Right for You?

selecting a college

That question is on the mind of tens of thousands of high school students every year as they try to select the schools where they will apply.

How successful will those students be in selecting the best college? Not very. Recent data shows that as many as one-quarter of all American students will transfer or drop out of the schools that they first attended. To learn more, check out data compiled by U.S. News.

Some of that data can really open your eyes. For example, 5,388 students transferred into Arizona State in 2009 and 5,336 transferred into the University of Central Florida. (Sorry, but more recent data is not available.)

All of those transfers are happening, even though students and their families are trying hard to gain admission to the best colleges. They are doing it through an application process that looks pretty much like this . . .

  • A student’s parents take their young student to visit a dozen or more colleges. That can cost $3,000, $4,000 or more.
  • They pay thousands of dollars for tutoring for standardized tests.
  • The kid takes those tests two or three times, until he or she has earned the highest score possible.
  • The parents hire an independent college counselor to help their student write a strong application essay.
  • Then when the kid gets accepted to several schools, he or she goes back for at least one additional visit to each of them.

And then after all that time and money has been invested, what happens? Chances are pretty good that the kid will switch to another college.

So What’s Wrong with the System?

  • It is hard to pick the college where you will spend four years if you only spend a day or two there during the admissions process. It is kind of like picking a Chevy after you have only looked at a picture of it – not taken a test drive.
  • It is hard to pick a good college until you take courses there. Many colleges let students sit in on classes as part of their college tours. But somehow, things look different when you are one of those students who is enrolled and taking those college courses for credit.
  • You will never know how you will fit into a college until you have lived there for weeks or months. What is the social scene like, for example? Is it too much of a party school, or is it deadly dull? Does the campus empty out on weekends because most of the students head home to visit their families?  Is the place a pressure cooker where students compete fiercely to graduate at the top of their department? You will never know until you are there.

Yet there are ways to reduce the risk of picking the wrong college. One good way is to subscribe online to the college newspaper. Another is to listen to the college’s radio station online. You can also look for blogs that are written by students who go there, or contact current students on Facebook to learn the scoop on what the place is really like.

Before you spend a bucketful of money, it’s a good idea to do a little “due diligence” and make sure your choice is a good one.

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