5 Mistakes Students Make When Choosing a College

National Decision Day will be here before you know it. Here are a few mistakes to avoid while making your final college decision (that day or after)!

Making your final college decision can be overwhelming. You may have a ton of options with a variety of influencing factors, from serious aspects like academic majors and location to more frivolous things like the most cafeteria options and school spirit. For students who are nervous about choosing which college to attend, here are some of the biggest things to consider and aspects you shouldn’t base your final decision on.

1. Choosing the same school as your friends or romantic partner

The best-fit school for you won’t necessarily be the one that’s right for your best friend or significant other. You’ll likely have different financial situations, goals, and learning styles. Instead of basing your decision on where your friends are going, consider what you want from a school and find a university that fits those needs. You can keep in touch with your friends wherever you choose to go and look forward to introducing them to your new college friends someday—and vice versa. 

Related: 4 Great Ways to Make Friends at College

2. Choosing a school based on its athletic teams

Butler University saw a huge increase in applications after their basketball team appeared in the NCAA championship in 2010. This effect has a name: The Flutie Factor, named after Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie. He threw a Hail-Mary touchdown and led the football team to an upset win in 1984, and the following year, BC saw a significant increase in applications. Of course, if you’re planning to play a national-level sport at the school, then this is a major factor you should consider as a student-athlete. However, it shouldn’t be a significant consideration for a regular student who’s just excited to cheer the team on from the stands.

3. Choosing a college solely on location

Many students want to stay close to home while attending college for a variety of reasons. But if you don’t live in an area with a lot of schools, you’re limiting your options—and missing out on colleges and universities that could be a great fit for you. By expanding your scope and considering a wider variety of places, you could discover your dream school is a little further away but home is still easily accessible for a weekend away.

Related: How Important Is Location in My College Decision?

4. Choosing a school because of how hard it is to get into

When deciding which college is right for you, you shouldn’t make the decision based solely on how selective a university it is. Of course, it helps to look into admission rates when you’re applying to schools to make sure you have a balanced college list of reach, match, and safety schools, but that shouldn’t be a factor once you’ve been accepted. You could be accepted to every Ivy League school in the country, but if one isn’t the right fit for you, it won’t mean much when you’re not happy and wanting to transfer.

5. Choosing a school based on rankings

This is one of the biggest mistakes students make when deciding which college to ultimately attend. How high a school ranks in national publications or whether it’s a name brand doesn’t dictate or affect your success at the institution. Consider what you want out of a university first to ensure you find the right one based on factors such as academic, financial, and social fit, and don’t disregard schools you’ve never heard of before. A hidden gem might be the perfect school for you and your goals, or you may give it a lot of thought and determine the well-known Ivy League is the best fit for you. Neither choice is wrong if it feels right to you.  

Related: The True Value of National Rankings in Your College Search

When making your final college decision, be sure to do your research and some soul searching before you commit to a school. Visit campuses before you send in your deposit if possible, and make sure you consider every aspect of the college admission process—not just factors that seem important now but really aren’t in the long run.

For even more help with this big life choice, check out all Our Best Advice on Making Your Final College Decision. Still searching for your best-fit school? Find yours using our College Search tool!

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About Lindsey Conger

Lindsey Conger

Lindsey Conger is a college counselor and tutor at Moon Prep.


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