College Search: Biggest Mistake

Biggest Mistake in Choosing a College

Nothing drives me crazy more than watching a parent and a guidance department in concert (read: in a well-intentioned conspiracy) to drive a student in the direction of certain colleges that don’t even fit what the student needs.

Here are the good intentions: the student needs to go to a “good” school, which is usually defined by where the parent went to school or where associates of the mom and dad went to school. You know…all that homogenized networking stuff after graduation. As if to suggest that the student needs a crutch upon graduation before making the “Big Time” on his or her own. Or, the parents think their student is smarter than they were at seventeen, and the parents want their college-bound student to aim higher than where they went to college. Is this looking familiar? Is this getting old yet? Nope. Not at all, as we discover…

The guidance department is equally handicapped as the parent, both of whom don’t have the time to do a proper job of guidance. In fact, your child may only receive 38 minutes a year from a high school guidance counselor on college planning. Hmmm…is this enough time to help plan a student’s next four years – excuse me, it’s five years for more than 60% of the seniors graduating this year. Ever wonder why that is?

If you think 38 minutes will do it, I’m out of business, and please don’t bother to send this blog to anyone you know who’s looking to hire someone like me.

Here’s the other unspoken problem most guidance counselors never mention: they have their favorite colleges because they’ve developed a relationship with someone at each of those schools. And they leverage those relationships so the student can get into those colleges. Nothing wrong with that, you say. But think about this: that relationship blurs the objectivity of the counselor who knows she or he will look good if the student is admitted to a “leveraged” college. But where does the “right-fit” come in? Could a counselor’s ego or perhaps job security enter this picture?

Trust the student’s results.  I have each of my students take the Myers-Briggs and Strong assessments through this one convenient source. Once they have the results, it’s fairly easy to interpret the results. Both assessments provide a direction for the student to follow, not an exact occupation. For example, the results may indicate that the student has a strong liking for financial management. That could easily mean that the student ought to look in the direction of majoring in some area that has something to do with – yes! – finances! That would rule out engineering (dad’s major) and literature (mom’s major).  All that needs to be done now is a search for those colleges that have – yes! – majors in the area of finance.

Of course, other factors will come into play on the final selection of a college, such as size and geography. Reputation will be a parent’s typical concern, but it isn’t the student’s so much. Get your heads together and trust your student’s instincts on the final decision after you have visited your top five choices.

The most expensive year is the fifth year: another year of tuition and board and a year without being in the work force earning an income. You can avoid this mistake by taking the right steps and an open mind. College for your daughter and son isn’t your college anymore. And 38 minutes is a silent catastrophe waiting to happen.

If you feel like talking to me, trust me: I’ll give you more than 38 minutes on the phone. 1-888-876-1863.
For some free videos and a chapter from my book, click here.


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