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Your College Choice | Five Issues You’ll Forget to Consider

November 04, 2010 By: Category: Choosing a College

Picking the wrong college can cost a fortune today. Consider these comments from, a website where students review hundreds of American colleges . . .

  • “This place is definitely not worth your parents’ 45K/year . . . The resources here are average at best. The labs are small and clearly cannot accommodate the growing number of science students each year . . . The dorms are pitiful: small, dark, and poorly kept . . . Our medical center doesn’t have a doctor on staff.”
  •  “Worst two years of my life. Can’t wait to transfer next year. People here suck. Classes are not stimulating. DO NOT GO HERE. IT IS NOT WORTH THE MONEY.”
  • “Do not go here! My one friend here just graduated in the top ten and cannot get a job! [Employers] always say they are sorry but they don’t trust the school’s credentials.”
  • “Tens of thousands of dollars in debt and I doubt my professors read my [papers].”

Because unfortunate experiences like those cost $50,000 or more, it’s critical to make college decisions that minimize the damage if things don’t work out. Here are five questions to ask before you make your college choice. . .

Sad college student

Photo by adronicusmax

What are my fall-back options if my major doesn’t work out?  Consider Jenny B., a student who entered a small college because it had a terrific dance program. A year later, she decided to go pre-med, but her college choice did not have the faculty or facilities to support her. This is why it can be smart to consider schools that offer a wide range of majors.

Does the college have the facilities I need? Remember that the buildings that colleges showcase on campus tours are probably the newest and flashiest. So if you think you might be a majoring in, say, computer animation, be sure to take a close look at the computer facilities. The time to learn about second-rate facilities is before you make your college choice, not after.

Can I transfer if things don’t work out?  Even though U.S. News compiles statistics about college transfers, definitive figures are hard to come by. If you’re thinking of attending Rutgers, for example, how hard is it to transfer out? To find out, post queries on campus blogs or ask students during your campus tours.

Am I comfortable at the place? When students are unhappy at their college choice, it’s often because their personalities are different from those of the other students there. That’s why it is vital to visit classes, talk to students on campus, or sleep in a dormitory overnight if you are accepted. If you don’t feel at home, you probably won’t be happy at the school – even if it has the biggest name or the strongest reputation.

What is the cash flow going to be like? Remember, this issue is different from financial aid. As a “scholarship poor” student at a large southern university explains, “I got a scholarship, but I am living on ramen and constantly broke, because there are no jobs available on campus. I’ll look back on these as the unhappiest years of my life.” So be sure to work the numbers. If you parents won’t be able to chip in to pay for food and living expenses, where will the money come from?

Remember that online college courses let you test drive college courses and majors before you make your college choice. That’s why more students today are using them to reduce the cost of picking the wrong college or college major.