Top 12 Worst Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a College

One of the reasons why high school students or graduates do not consider going to college an option is that it’s an educational endeavor that can be quite expensive.

However, this doesn’t have to be the case all the time. There are steps that may be taken by a student to keep attending college from coming with a sky-high price tag. One of the things that may be done is avoiding costly mistakes when choosing which college a student should attend.

There are many slip-ups that a student may commit when selecting from various colleges. Some of them can make being a college student more expensive than it needs to be.

Needless to say, it’s a good idea to avoid these blunders if the student’s goal is to get a college degree without getting broke.

Are you a high school student or graduate, and you are planning to go to college on a budget? Then don’t stop reading now.

Below you will come across 12 costly mistakes to avoid when choosing a college.

If you have high school friends who are thinking about turning their backs on earning a college diploma because they are intimidated by the associated costs, make sure that you repost this article so that they, too, may be able to avoid the following mistakes:

1. Picking a High-Ranking College

Any college can claim to be the best for any high school graduate. Because of this, students who want to have an impressive resume to get employed without trouble bite the bait.

Unfortunately, attending these so-called high-ranking colleges usually do not come easy on the bank.

Being top-notch is mostly a subjective matter. A college is entitled to feel as well as claim that it’s a premier educational facility.

There are times that it’s not the college that announces its superiority, but higher education rankings. These rankings are everywhere, especially on the internet.

For students who wish to come across the names of colleges that are regarded as the cream of the crop, all they have to do is check out higher education rankings.

Unfortunately, these rankings are unreliable as the organizations that come up with them. That’s because each one of them uses a different set of criteria.

Some of the most commonly used criteria that determine a college’s ranking include graduation rates, student to faculty ratio, awards won, and employer reputation.

Because different criteria are used by different higher education ranking organizations, results differ vastly.

Choosing a college because it has a high position on a higher education ranking list can be a costly disaster. As mentioned earlier, colleges that make it to these listings tend to be expensive.

In some cases, they charge their students a lot not because they offer high-quality education, but because they are popular.

It’s perfectly okay for a student like you to check out higher education rankings posted on the internet.

However, it’s a good idea to take what you read with a grain of salt because these listings are not absolute. It’s subjective, too. Proof to this is that a college may rank high on one online listing but not on the other.

Here’s a tip: Instead of making a choice based on a particular higher education ranking, why not make your own list based on your own criteria such as affordability, accessibility, and reliability?

2. Disregarding Financial Aids

When choosing a college, students who are on a shoestring budget tend to take a look at the price tag immediately.

Taking a glimpse of the cost before anything else, after all, seems to be the most logical thing to do when students are shopping around primarily because they want reduced expenditure.

Although it’s completely understandable for budget-conscious students to do this, sadly, they are missing out on the opportunity to have better education as they’re making a choice based on the college upfront cost, disregarding the fact that it is possible to offset some of the expenses by means of financial aids.

There are various financial aids available for college students, and they are around to help make attending college affordable to all.

First, let us differentiate a loan and a grant.

A loan is a sum of money that you borrow and then pay back monthly after graduating from college. Aside from the amount that you borrowed, you will also have to pay the interest.

On the other hand, a grant is a monetary award given to you based on financial need. Unlike a loan, there is no need for you to pay it back after graduation.

One more example of financial aid is a scholarship grant, which is a monetary award provided based on factors such as academic excellence, athletic abilities, artistic talents, and volunteer experience.

Decide on financial aid by figuring out which of the available ones can serve you better. Each of your options comes with its own set of pros and cons.

Just like when choosing a college itself, you should carefully weigh the perks and downsides of a particular financial aid before you take advantage of it.

Here’s a tip: There are many different sources of financial aids, depending on where you are living. Some of the common examples include federal governments, state governments, private organizations, and the colleges themselves.

3. Failure to Decide on a Course

Some high school graduates apply to college without knowing what careers they would like to have after graduating. Most likely, these people also have no idea which college courses they should go for.

No matter the college preferred, this is something that can be regarded as a costly mistake. That’s because it is likely for them to change their majors later on.

This can cause one’s total college expenditure to skyrocket due to added matriculation fees, student accommodation costs, school supplies expenses, personal spending, and others.

Also, shifting to a different course can lead to time wastage. Your high school friends are already being handed with their diplomas, while you are still in the classroom being handed with test papers.

Wasted time in college is wasted money. Because the cost of going to college increases on a regular basis, failure for a student to stick to one’s first choice as a course can cause him or her to spend more money than planned.

Experts confirm that college costs have increased by over 25% in the last ten years, and being in college for more than 4 to 6 years could lead to a student’s financial ruin.

Unfortunately, changing your course can take its toll not only on your pocket but also your resume.

You will realize this fact when you are already applying for a job, and the person interviewing you has a skeptical look on his or her face upon checking out your resume and college credentials, too.

To most employers, applicants who changed majors in college are not good decision-makers, and thus they won’t make for some of the most excellent employees.

Here’s a tip: Before graduating from high school, it’s a good idea to approach your school’s career coach. He or she can help you figure out which courses you should consider.

This helps lower your risk of changing or leaving your major in college, which can be bad for your pocket as well as a resume.

4. Choosing in a Hurry

When shopping for a product online, there are many things that a consumer should do before clicking on the “add to cart” button.

One of the most important steps that have to be taken is comparing several different products to find out which one has the best specifications as well as the most reasonable price tag.

The same has to be done when choosing which college a student should go to. He or she should devote enough time to learning as many things as possible about every college that is on his or her list.

It’s important to carefully weigh the pros and cons of going to each one, putting additional emphasis on cost-related matters.

According to college admissions officers themselves, the best time for students to start choosing a college is not later than their junior year in high school.

This gives them about a year to come across as many college options as they can, and then research on each one of them to come up with a decision.

Some high school students start thinking about which college they should go to only when graduation is just around the bend, or sometimes immediately after graduation.

This is a terrible idea as some of the worst decisions in life are made when a person is in a rush and under pressure.

Here’s a tip: In your junior year, approach your high school’s career coach or your most trusted teacher and ask about how to create a more focused list of affordable colleges to choose from. Don’t forget to get your hands on college brochures and flyers available at the school administration office.

By the way, there are certain things you could start doing even in the freshman year.

5. Dreaming of Moving to a Big City

Just about everything in a big and popular city comes with an exorbitant price tag, such as the cost of living. This is why a college that is located in or near a city that everyone dreams of visiting usually does not come cheap.

Many students choose a college based on its location, and a lot of them prefer a location that is bustling. Reasons for such tend to vary tremendously.

Some students are from small towns and dream of experiencing how it’s like to live in enormous cities that are a complete opposite of their homelands.

Others want to have fantastic jobs immediately after college as there are plenty of employment opportunities in busy cities.

When choosing a college on a budget, only one focus should exist. It’s none other than getting a college diploma without going broke. The rest, such as living in a wonderful city and having an amazing job after college graduation, should be considered later on.

Fortunately, there is no need for a student to go as far away as possible from his or her hometown. With a little research, it’s possible to find a college that is near, quality, and affordable.

Sometimes you may want to attend a college in a particular city because you feel that you belong to it. Well, there’s only one way to find out, and that’s by visiting the city.

If it turns out that it’s not as marvelous as you imagined it to be, accept the fact that your education is the one that truly matters, not your whim to live in a nice city.  

Here’s a tip: If you are living in a bustling city and you want to save money in college, do the complete opposite of what many students do. Looking for an affordable college outside the city is beneficial for your funds.

6. Going Where There are Lots of Fun

A lot of teen movies make it seem like going to college is all about making tons of new friends, attending endless parties, and drinking lots and lots of alcohol.

Sadly, these movies are a far cry from reality. They do not show the fact that being a college student also involves a lot of hard work inside the classroom, and sometimes outside it, too.

Colleges that are located where all sorts of parties, festivities, and celebrations take place constantly are usually expensive. The same is true with just about any product and service in the area.

Because people from all over the planet visit as well as migrate to the city, it’s perfectly understandable and totally expected for the price tag of everything to soar, and it includes the cost of getting a college diploma.

The primary goal of going to college is to earn a degree, which is vital for a bright future.

It can be a pricey mistake to go to college just to have some fun as it’s likely to result in flunked subjects, changing courses, moving to a different city to attend a different college — the list of unnecessary costs can go on and on!

Instead of looking forward to partying, it’s a much better idea for a student to look for a college where he or she could have a healthy social life, which is something that can be extremely beneficial when it’s time for the person to apply for a prolific job.

Instead of choosing a college where there’s easy access to parties, a high school student should select one that offers all sorts of clubs, organizations, and associations, which allows for meeting people and, at the same time, honing one’s social skills and various talents.

Don’t be afraid to attend a college where it seems like there are no parties around. After graduating from college and once you already have a high-paying job, you can party all you want.

But in the meantime, you should prioritize studying. After all, getting your degree only takes 4 to 6 years of your life. You have plenty more years after that.

Here’s a tip: If you do not want any distraction, choose a college that’s as far away as possible from party places. Not only will this help you focus on your studies, but also allow you to stay on budget.

7. Sticking to the Local Options Only

Some students are terrified of the thought of being far away from family members and childhood friends after graduating from high school and then going to college.

Others are afraid that they may fail to make it on their own living in a foreign city whose locals they don’t know.

It’s because of this exactly why many students choose a college that’s located right where they are or one that does not require them to move out of their parents’ house and live in a dormitory or their own apartment.

This is not the most cost-effective solution when it comes to attending college because of several factors. For instance, if they are living in a big and populous city, it’s likely for the local colleges to be expensive.

There is one pocket-friendly step that a student may take in order to enjoy attending college at a fraction of the cost. It’s none other than being an exchange student. At first glance, it may seem like this is a pricey option.

So many high school students are shocked to know that being a part of a scholarly exchange program doesn’t have to involve a lot of money.

The amount of cash a student has to shell out to become an exchange student can vary tremendously. It all depends on which country he or she is from and which country he or she would like to study.

Various organizations arrange exchange programs, and their rates vary, too.

Considering being an exchange student can be easy on the savings if you pick the right organization that can help you become one. Aside from saving money, studying abroad can also give you the kind of experience that so many employers are looking for in applicants.

Here’s a tip: If you have been living in your current hometown forever and you are looking forward to exciting college life, it’s a good idea to think about partaking in a scholarly exchange program.

8. Wanting to be With Someone

Making the leap from high school to college can be exciting. It can, however, be daunting as well. That’s because college is a bigger and more complex educational world than high school.

This is one of the reasons why a lot of high school graduates choose a college based on the choice of their friends, boyfriends, or girlfriends — they feel that college won’t be as terrifying and difficult if they know someone in the campus.

And this notion also usually leads to choosing the same course. With such being the case, going to college is no longer about pursuing one’s dreams. Rather, it becomes pursuing one’s comfort and peace of mind.

Especially if the people that you wish to follow in college are from rich families, it’s likely for them to go to an expensive college. Definitely, staying in their company isn’t the most affordable way to earn a college diploma.

It’s true that you are not going to part ways with them if you choose to follow them to an expensive college, but you may have to say goodbye to having a college degree as you may not be able to complete college due to financial constraints.

Staying in their company may make you feel safe and secure in college alright. Unfortunately, this is something that can leave a gigantic dent on your funds.

When choosing a college, pick one where your heart and pocket desire to go, and not where your best friend or romantic half prefers to go.

Here’s a tip: If you really want to be with someone you know in college, why not ask the person to go to the college of your choice? With the right speech, you may win yourself a college buddy without losing lots of money.

9. Following in Parents’ Footsteps

According to a study, kids whose parents went to college are likely to go to college, too. In many instances, kids also choose the same college that their parents graduated from.

This is especially true if their parents are successful in life and have plenty of wonderful stories about their college lives.

Unfortunately, times change, and people are different, including those who are related by blood such as parents and their offspring. This means that just because the parents loved their time in a particular college doesn’t mean right away that their children will also love their time there.

It’s like saying that kids these days would throw away their smartphones and opt for rotary phones because these old-school phones were loved by their parents back in the day.

Cost-wise, it’s important to note that many years ago, everything was cheaper, including earning a college degree. Your pocket, not a parent, should be the deciding factor.

Here’s a tip: Always keep in mind that you are not your parents. If you look up to your parents and you want to be just as successful as them, study and work hard no matter which college you end up attending.

10. Wanting to Please Others

Some high school students choose a college to make their dreams come true. Unfortunately, the dreams of theirs are not necessarily about earning a degree and getting a highly satisfying high-paying job.

Sometimes their dreams are all about making their parents proud of them. They believe that going to a college as well as majoring in something that their parents want can make that happen.

This is something that can turn a sweet dream into a total nightmare, and it includes wasting a lot of money.

It is very much possible for a student who is unhappy with his or her course and college to flunk subjects, causing him or her to take them again until passing grades are obtained. Retaking subjects does not come free of charge.

The student who is forced to attend college just to make his or her parents happy may also, later on, decide to shift to a different course. Again, taking a different course costs money.

When choosing a college, a student should refrain from prioritizing the feelings of others. Since it is he or she who will go to a college, it’s just right for the student to follow what his or her heart desires.

Refrain from picking a college because it’s where your parents got their diploma from. Especially if your college funds are limited, it is a terrible idea to choose a college based on this.

While it’s completely understandable for you to want to take the same college course that a parent of yours took, going to the same college thinking that you are going to have the same success in life as your parents is completely absurd.

The steep cost of picking a college for the sake of winning the love and trust of parents may not be evident at the outset, but it will surely make its presence known once the complications start coming into being.

In the end, instead of getting attention and affection, the student may end up getting flack from his or her folks.

Here’s a tip: It’s a much better idea to impress your parents by getting high grades, graduating with honors and landing a fantastic job, instead of trying to please them by choosing a college based on their liking.

11. Trying to Displease Parents

Above, we talked about some students who go to a certain college just to make their parents proud of them. On the other hand, there are also those who attend a college just to get their parents raging mad.

This commonly happens to students whose parents are breathing down their necks in an attempt to ensure that they are going to be rich and successful adults in the future.

Especially if they can no longer take being treated like they cannot decide for themselves, they may rebel and pick the worst college.

Doing so is regarded as a costly mistake as it often leads to failing grades, retaking subjects, changing courses and even transferring to a different college — all of these things can cause a student and also sometimes the parents that he or she wanted to annoy to spend more money than necessary.

Losses do not begin and end there. That’s because when it’s time to apply for a job, the college graduate, if he or she, in fact, graduates, may fail to impress a potential employer with college credentials that are less than stellar.

Any bad blood between you and your parents should take the backseat while you are deciding which college to attend as well as which course to take.

Going to college just because you want to make a point to your parents that you cannot have a loving and peaceful relationship with won’t lead to anything that’s favorable for all parties.

Here’s a tip: Choosing a college to satisfy your folks is just as bad for the pocket and many other things, too, as picking a college to displease them. When making a choice, make sure that you focus on what’s best for you and nothing else.

12. Not Visiting the College

The names of some of the best colleges in the county are usually spread through word of mouth. It is possible for a student to pick a college because the roommate of the cousin of the friend of a classmate said so.

Especially if a student is in a rush to choose a college, it’s not likely for him or her to go for the much talked about college.

Unfortunately, college life is a very subjective matter. For instance, one student may have a fantastic experience in it while the other may have a terrible one even though they are attending the same college.

It’s because of this why a student should spend some time inside the campus before deciding whether or not the college is the right one for him or her.

Failure to do so may cause the student to change his or her mind in the middle of the school year upon realizing that it’s not the right college for him or her.

Transferring to a different college can be costly as there are various expenses involved, ranging from hiring a moving company to buying new books.

When choosing a college, one must not simply make a decision based on stories passed from one mouth to the other or according to photos of the college posted on the internet.

As much as possible, a student should head to it and get a firsthand experience of the people and environment not only inside the campus but also outside it.

Having two to three college names on your list is usually enough. Staying away from having a long list of options can work to your advantage as there is no need for you to visit several different colleges.

Here’s a tip: Why not consider going on a road trip with your closest friends and visit the colleges on your list? Who knows, they may like what they see and decide to study there with you!

For instance, on this blog you can find several post about visiting colleges such as Duke, Vanderbilt, U of Chicago, Northwestern, and others.

Just Before You Start Choosing a College

As you can see, there are many costly mistakes that a student like you may commit when choosing a college.

Keep all the things mentioned above in mind and do your best to dodge them.

Feel free to browse various topics on this blog. We hope you will find something useful and also listen to the “Who cares about college?” podcast:

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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