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College Planning: 5 Common Misconceptions

Stephen Friedfeld, PhD

The early stages of college planning and research for high school underclassmen can often feel like information overload. Rankings, statistics and social media provide endless amounts of information – some useful – some not so much.

Over the years, we’ve received quite a bit of feedback when it comes to the college search process. Here are five of the more common misconceptions we’ve observed from parents and students.

The best schools in the country are all located in the Northeast. Yes, while many elite institutions (including the Ivy League) are located in the Northeast and New England, there are dozens of equally competitive schools (in warmer climates!) elsewhere. Private universities such as Duke and Vanderbilt as well as public state schools such as UNC Chapel Hill and UC Berkeley offer top-notch educations.

Liberal arts colleges won’t prepare your child for a career after graduation. While it’s true that the majority of LACs don’t offer the same level of academic specialization as larger universities, they still provide students with the value of a comprehensive and well-rounded education, which for many employers is seen as equally, if not more, valuable. This level of academic freedom also allows students more flexibility in switching majors and career interests.

Attending high school in an underrepresented geographic area will hurt my child’s chances of admission. In reality, this is quite the opposite. Colleges are always looking to increase the number of states and areas that are represented by the student-body on campus. While they still need to see a strong academic profile regardless of location, applying from underrepresented areas (relative to the school you are applying to) will not be held against your child.

The campus bubble. Don’t underestimate the importance of the surrounding community and area when evaluating a school. Upon visiting colleges, you and your child may encounter campuses that feel walled off, both literally and figuratively. This can create a bubble-effect, where students feel confined to life on-campus. Be aware that many schools will not guarantee housing for all four years, leaving students to find alternative options off-campus.

Large universities provide a second-rate education. Just because the university has a strong football team does not mean it provides a lesser education! Schools such as the University of Michigan and University of Texas – Austin are often misplaced in rankings by students and parents based on their high-level of athletic achievement. It’s important to remember that a great education comes in all shapes, sizes and locations.

(Stephen Friedfeld is the co-founder and COO of AcceptU. He received a BA from Cornell University, an MA from Columbia University Teachers College, and a Ph.D. from Rice University. Prior to founding AcceptU, Stephen was an Assistant Dean of admissions at Cornell for four years and an Associate Dean of graduate admissions at Princeton University for six years. Stephen is an IECA Associate Member. )

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