College Search Myths (and Realities)

There are college myths and realities surrounding the college search process.

Flickr user Kate Dollarhyde

Conducting an exhaustive college search is your first step towards finding the right college for you. Unfortunately, as you look for tips on how to look for the right college, you are likely to come across numerous myths that could seriously derail your search and send you in the wrong direction.

Without further ado, let’s get right down some of the more common college search myths and realities.

MYTH: Brand-name is Best

Employers are more interested in hiring individuals from big-name colleges so you should only focus on those institutions as they will put you ahead of the curve when it comes time to get a job.

FACT: While graduating from a well-known school may have its perks, graduating from a lesser-known institution does not necessarily put you at a disadvantage when job hunting. Employers do not make hiring decisions based solely on academic pedigree. Instead, they are more interested in applicants’ skills, experience, communication and leadership skills, aptitude, and most important of all, ‘fit’ for the job in question. If you have what they are looking for and meet all of their expectations, they will hire you irrespective of whether you graduated from an Ivy League school or a community college.

MYTH: Good Colleges are Highly Exclusive

Good colleges only accept students who have stellar academic grades, outstanding recommendation letters, fantastic test scores, and a long list of extracurricular activities. If you fall short in any one of these areas, it is better to lower your ambitions and apply to a less-established college.

FACT: This really is so far removed from the truth. No college aims to admit only all straight-A students. Colleges are looking for students who will thrive on their campus and make them proud. While grades, scores and extracurricular activities do matter to colleges, do so other factors. That includes your personal statement, your choice of courses, and your long term participation in extracurricular activities, particularly community-related activities.

MYTH: Don’t Bother Applying to Expensive Colleges

You shouldn’t bother checking out colleges with high tuition fees. After all, if you cannot afford to pay the fees, why waste time looking into their programs and other facilities?

FACT: The tuition fees that you see quoted on a college’s website is what is commonly known as the ‘sticker price’. Very few families if any actually manage to pay this fee using only their savings. Most will end up taking loans to supplement their personal savings, scholarships, and grants that their student has won. Don’t strike a college off your list only because of their high tuition fees.

Instead, have a realistic discussion with your parents about college affordability. Then, exhaust all your sources of free money—apply for grants and for every scholarship you are eligible for. If you are really keen on attending a particular college but the fees are too high, it may still be worth sending in your application but only if you are a ‘good fit’. Some colleges have additional funds set aside. They may offer you a more generous financial aid package just to have you as their student.

MYTH: Ivy League Schools Have the Best Professors

Ivy League colleges and other renowned institutions have more talented professors. You will not get the same quality of teaching in a smaller or lesser-known institution.

FACT: All talented professors are not necessarily vying for jobs in Ivy League schools. They may choose to teach in smaller institutions because they want to be closer to their family, they prefer teaching smaller class sizes, or they like the idea of belonging to a smaller community. Whatever the reason, you can find talented, dedicated professors in all colleges.

MYTH: Ivy Leagues Have Superior Resources

Ivy League colleges and other private institutions have better lab and library facilities and offer a wider, more exciting selection of courses. You should only consider applying to these top-notch universities to get the best all-round experience.

FACT: It’s true that private and Ivy League colleges offer impressive facilities, but that doesn’t mean lesser-known or state colleges are lacking in high quality resources of their own.

Myth: Legacies are Guaranteed Admission

You are sure to get admission into the college that your parents or older siblings graduated from.

FACT: While most colleges do take family association into consideration, most do not assess your application purely on these grounds. Having a family connection with the college does not guarantee you admission by itself. It will only give you the edge over other applicants if your application is competitive in all other aspects.

MYTH: You Shouldn’t Apply to “No-Name” Colleges

You should not apply to a college that you or others around you have not heard about.

FACT: With about 4,000 colleges scattered across the United States, chances are high that you will come across many schools that nobody you know has heard about. But that does not mean they are not good colleges. You’d be surprised at some of the famous people who graduated from little-known colleges. If, during your college search, you come across a college that you have not heard about before, don’t discount it immediately. Take some time to go through the school’s programs, read reviews from former students and check out their social media page. It’s amazing how much you can find out about a college through their Facebook page alone.

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