Red Flags That Might Mean A College Isn’t the Right Fit For You

A red flag on the sea side.

Flickr user Lee

Most people probably have an idea of what they want their college experience to be like. When you are applying to colleges, there might be a list of things you are looking for: a large or small campus, small class sizes, intramural opportunities, prestigious programs, affordability, and so on. You might even be able to think of college as a relationship – you’re looking for certain things, but you’re willing to bend if a school doesn’t have everything on your list. Just like a relationship with another human, there are some red flags to watch for. Here are some red flags that could indicate a school is not right for you.

The Feeling Isn’t Right

Everyone knows that gut feeling when they walk into a place where they don’t belong. If you are touring a campus and that feeling happens, you probably shouldn’t keep it on your list. That isn’t to say that a place can’t grow on you. However, if you do not feel happy in your environment (whether it’s the dorms, the dining halls, or the classrooms), it can negatively affect you and your work. You don’t want to spend the next four years of your life in a place that makes you unhappy, and starting in such a place is one reason students transfer.

The Course Selection is Too Limiting

If you are the type of person who can stay within one track of learning, this flag probably won’t pop up. However, if you like the idea of dabbling in multiple departments for your elective credits, make sure your prospective school has enough choices to keep you interested. Maybe you’re looking at Accounting, but you always wanted to learn Japanese. See if your school offers both! Even if you’ve wanted to be an accountant your entire life, not every class in that major will be fun and interesting. Being able to cast a wide net helps you from getting burnt out within your own major. Having options within a major is also a major benefit.

Your Prospective Department Only Teaches Certain Things

Some schools have distinctive ways of teaching certain areas. Maybe the English department only focuses on the research aspect of literature, such as going in-depth into one area or author history. Maybe the art program favors a particular drawing or painting style. Perhaps there is no hands-on component available in your pharmacy courses. If you are looking for particular aspects within a department, make sure to talk with people in the department. And if you don’t think what they are offering is for you, that’s okay.

The Student Culture

No matter what school you decide to attend, you will most likely find at least a few people who are in line with your way of thinking. However, if you are a strong conservative, you might find it hard to be in a traditionally liberal school setting. Or if you are looking at schools with religious affiliations, keep in mind that many people will be aligned with that religion. A quick Google search before your campus visit might help you learn what a student body is most well-known for (i.e., party school, art school, conservative school, etc.).

The Price of Tuition

While the cost of tuition should always be a concern in this day and age (what with student debt being prevalent and all), you should never choose a school solely based on the price. If your parents are pushing you toward a school because it is the most affordable, ask yourself if you really believe you want to go there. Are you able to learn what you want and need to learn to be successful? On the other hand, you don’t want to choose an expensive school purely because your parents and friends believe expensive = prestigious. Again, ask yourself if that school has a program there that you believe is worth the cost and keep in mind that even elite colleges might be more affordable than you think when you factor in financial aid!

Everyone Would Recognize Your School’s Name

It could be that Ohio State University has everything you wanted in a school. Maybe Yale has the exact program you need for your future career plans. But if you are choosing a school just to say that you went there and to see everyone ooh and ahh at you, you might want to rethink a little bit. Name recognition of your alma mater is nice, but sometimes the tiny schools that no one has heard of are the better fit for you.

Your Parents Want You To Go… But You Don’t

I understand that this flag can’t always be avoided. I have known parents of friends who won’t help pay for college if the student doesn’t go to the college the parents want, or if the student doesn’t want to major in something the parents believe is “worthwhile” (I know a couple of people who were forced out of the arts because of this). But if it is possible, try to have a conversation (or several) with your parents if this is a feeling that you have. You are pretty much guaranteed to do better work if you are in a place where you want to be. After all, if you don’t want to be at a school or in a given major, what is your motivation to do well?

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