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Coping with Everyone's Opinions About College

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Let's face it—you've never picked a college before. So why not take all the advice you can get?

Does this sound familiar? "Let me tell you about this really great college that...." Naturally, people want to help. Here's some perspective on dealing with all those good intentions.

How Do You Sort Out "Helpful" Advice Like This?

  • Your friend applies to a "top" college and says you should too.
  • Your parents talk up the advantages of an in-state public college.
  • Your counselor recommends a small college you've never heard of.
  • Your cousin claims his college will give you the best contacts ever.
  • Your mailbox is full of colleges advising you to apply "right now!"

So, Do Your Friends Know Best?

According to surveys of college freshmen, where their friends went to college strongly influenced their college choice. Of course, it's comforting to know you'll have friends at college. But your circle of friends will expand once you're there. In fact, new friends are one of the great benefits of college life.

Are Your Parents Right?

Your parents know you well. And they have your interests at heart. They may have excellent insights into the kind of learning and social environments that suit you best. And if they are helping to pay for college, they (rightfully) may want you to apply to some colleges that are likely to be affordable.

Should You Listen to Your Counselor?

Your counselor should know a great deal about colleges popular with students at your school. Counselors talk with college representatives regularly. They know what types of students were admitted and did well at different colleges. They know your achievements and potential, and they can steer you toward colleges where you might succeed.

What About College Students and Recent Grads?

Going to a college just because someone else loves it can lead to disaster. That said, it pays to ask what someone likes or doesn't like about their college. They may bring up aspects of college life you had not considered. In fact, grab an invitation to visit their campus. Not only will you get a taste of college life, but that college may be worth exploring after all.

What About Encouraging Words from Colleges?

Colleges market themselves through high school visits, social media pages, and a flood of brochures and e-mails. At times it may seem that they are actively recruiting you. Enjoy the attention, but rely on your own assessment of any college you might apply to.

Is Your Own Advice Best?

Developing a good sense of what you are looking for in a college will help you sort out advice coming from all directions. Listen to everybody, consider their experience and knowledge, and decide if any of their advice makes sense for you. If a college sounds interesting, by all means find out more. But ultimately, only one person has the final vote. That person is you.

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