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8 Factors to Never Consider When Choosing a College

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While you’ll consider many factors when making your college choice, some factors are more important than others. Here are eight of the worst reasons for choosing a college and how they can lead to unhappiness down the road.

You may feel like you have some great reasons for making your college choice. But it’s important that your decision is centered around your top college priorities and not solely influenced by other people or reasons that you might regret later on. Here’s what to watch out for when it comes time to select a college.

1. Romantic Relationships

It’s important to consider your significant other when making big life decisions. However, when it comes to choosing a college, put yourself first and encourage your significant other to do the same.

In fact, allowing your relationship to influence your college decision may lead to problems in the future, especially if one of you is unsatisfied with the college and feels resentful. Be sure to choose a school that is the best fit for you, regardless of your significant other's decision. If you both end up at the same school, then it should be because it was right for both of you!

2. Friendships

If you’re considering accepting or rejecting a college because of your current friends, you might want to rethink your college decision. Just because your friends are going there (or won’t be there) doesn’t mean the college is — or isn’t — right for you!

Friendships can change dramatically once you graduate from high school. Although you may plan to stay in touch with high school friends after graduation, and some of them may be lifelong friends, there’s also a chance you’ll grow apart as your college lives unfold. Plus, one of the best parts of college is meeting new people and making new friends.


3. Beautiful people

It’s normal to weigh multiple pros and cons when choosing a college, but the physical attractiveness of the students on campus shouldn’t be one of them. On average, most public colleges have populations ranging from 6,000 to 40,000 students. It’s impossible to gauge the attractiveness of a college's entire student body from a few individuals you saw during a college tour or connected with over Zoom.

Your social life in college will be important, but if you prioritize dating over studying, your college life may be short-lived. It’s important to consider other aspects of a college community beyond how physically attractive the students are. Instead, pay attention to the kinds of activities students participate in, how friendly and happy the students seem, the availability of social and academic support, and how welcoming the community feels to you.

4. College rankings

Some students consider rankings and reputation top reasons to choose a college. Even parents can get caught up in a college’s statistics! It’s important to remember that a college is much more than its ranking on U.S. News and World Report.

Although it is a good idea to make sure a college has a good reputation, image isn’t everything. Just because a college has a high rank and impressive statistics doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for you. If you don't base your choice on factors related to your personal academic needs, learning style, and goals, you may end up miserable at even the most prestigious college.


5. Making Parents Happy

Although your parents should have a voice in your college decision, you shouldn’t choose or not choose a college just for them. It’s good to listen to the advice your parents give you when it comes to college, especially if they’re speaking from experience. But remember, you are not exactly like your parents. Assuming all the colleges you are considering are affordable and have similar academic opportunities, your parents’ personal preferences should not overshadow your own. 

6. An imperfect visit

Another factor that shouldn’t influence your college decision is an imperfect visit, an off-putting Zoom call, or a lackluster campus tour. College visits and online tours are great ways to explore a campus, get a glimpse of student life, and learn more about a college, but not all these experiences are perfect or completely representative of the experience you might have there as a student. Many things can affect a campus visit, such as bad weather, a boring tour guide, or incomplete information. Try not to let these experiences affect the way you view the college.

If a school seems like a good fit in every way but didn't feel right when you visited or attended an online event, visit or connect again, if possible. Don’t let one bad experience make up your mind about a college.


7. It's too big or too small

Although the size of a campus and its student population are important factors to consider, these factors shouldn’t outweigh other college qualities, such as majors offered, internships, and other academic opportunities.

Many small colleges do everything they can to make their campuses vibrant on nights and weekends. On the other hand, a large university may have an honors college that gives you a small college experience in a big campus setting.

8. Winning Sports Teams

You might have been a fan of a particular college sports team your entire life and dreamt of cheering on that team as a student there. But if that college doesn’t offer your major, is too expensive, or is farther from home than you’d like, will it really be the best choice in the long run? Unless you are an athlete who hopes to be recruited to play at the collegiate level, a championship football, basketball or other sports team shouldn’t be the main reason to choose a college.

If school spirit is something you value, keep in mind that you can find it at lots of colleges — even those that don’t have large or well-funded sports programs.


Keep Your Goals in Mind

Figuring out how to choose a college isn’t always easy. But if you keep your educational goals top-of-mind when making your college decision, you are more likely to attend a school where you will thrive and succeed.




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