Although there’s currently many resources high schoolers can use to learn more about their college choices, there‘s problems that makes these resources not so great. In an effort to learn more about these problems, we made and sent out a survey asking high school juniors and seniors questions relating to their college search/decisions. The responses provided valuable insight that enabled us to effectively categorize the reasons why the college decision process is so difficult.
On this post, you will learn about why choosing the right college can be so challenging nowadays. Here are 5 reasons why it’s hard know if a college is a right or wrong fit for you:
1. Visiting college in-person is costly and time-consuming
Our survey taught us that over two-thirds of the high schoolers are only visiting/have visited less-than-half to none of their college options. The pandemic has limited visiting colleges more than ever, but even aside from COVID-19 restrictions, high schoolers face many challenges that disable them from visiting all their college options. These may include high travel costs, not having enough time to visit all college options, or simply lacking motivation to travel, and all these obstacles are especially prevalent if the colleges they are interested in are out-of-state.
2. Colleges all seem the same on paper
When wanting to do basic research on a college, the most common/easy thing to do is search up the college online and surf through their website. We asked high school juniors and seniors how helpful they found different methods of learning about a college, and they considered reading a college’s website and social media one of the least helpful. While the internet and social media makes it easier than ever to access information about any college in the US, oddly enough, that doesn't mean the information is informative. From having similar mission statements to listing what they are nationally-ranked on on their home page, all colleges appear to be very similar, making it challenging to compare them and decide which one is better for you, as its hard to learn what each college is actually like (i.e. its “vibe”).
3. Official college resources are biased
Given the methods mentioned above that colleges use for promotion, its evident that official college resources like their websites or social media may be heavily biased. Some colleges may even have some sort of "student ambassador" programs, typically in their admissions office/department. While this resource may be more useful than simply scrolling through a college website, it's important to consider that the programs are primarily an advertising method for the college. The biased nature of these resources may provide a misrepresentation of what the college's culture is really like. Furthermore, it's normally the student ambassador's/tour guide's job to speak positively about everything at the college, so they're unlikely to mention anything they don't like about college. Even if they are genuinely positive about their experiences, just because their college is the right place for them unfortunately doesn't mean it is for you too.
4. Lack of personal connection to colleges
This reason is not as straightforward as the rest, but still as important. Through our survey we learned that about 65% of high schoolers know a student/alumnus from only less than half of their college options, 20% have a connection to half their college options, and only about 15% have a connection to more than half of their college options. This is simply due to how many colleges there are in the country, which makes it very unlikely for students to personally know someone from all their college options, especially if they are out-of-state. That might not seem like a big deal at first, but we also asked the same high schoolers if they were more inclined to commit to a college they have some sort of personal connection to or familiarity with, and over 75% of them said they would. This data presents a huge issue. While the majority of these high schoolers consider familiarity/personal connection an important factor towards which college they choose, the majority also lacks this connection to most of their colleges. This leads to choosing colleges on the basis of familiarity over whether it's the right fit.
5. Third-party sites/forums are unreliable
This refers to Reddit, Quora, or any other third-party resources with info on colleges. While these sites contain a lot of information, their quality and reliability are in question. Often there is no way to verify who the writers are, what their intentions are, or if they are straight-up lying. Relying on these resources can make you unnecessarily second-guess yourself about a college or even give you the complete wrong idea on one.
The bottom line is the process of choosing a college can be extremely difficult. Fortunately, recognizing the disadvantages of the resources above is a step in the right direction, as it allows you to focus more on their advantages and exploit those instead.