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College 101

Biggest Myths
Article Type: Quick and Dirty

University of Where...The Myth of the No-Name School

Think that any school you’ve never heard of probably stinks? Think again. The reality is that there are thousands of schools in the United States.  College counselors haven’t even heard of them all.  Most of the time, you hear about schools because of sports or because of top ranking lists, both of which aren’t the best reason to choose one.  Have an open mind when a school pops onto your radar; it might end up being a great fit for you. And guess what? As soon as you hear about the school, you’ve heard of it.

An alternative version of this myth holds that the opposite is true – that a big-name school is going to equal happiness, riches, and a guaranteed ticket into graduate school. Nope. Check out our Find Colleges search engine to find colleges that you may be interested in.

The Myth of “More Is Better”…Applying to Lots of Colleges Is the Way to Go

Reality:  This is like saying “I’m not going to read the menu, but I will order one of everything to make sure I get something I like.”  Applying to colleges takes money and time.  Instead of applying to a gazillion schools, put in the work to create a short list full of schools where you have a good shot at getting in and where you would be happy to attend.

And then the opposite…

The One-Application Myth…Focusing on the One School Where You Really Want to Go

Reality: Ummm . . . can you say all of your eggs in one basket?  Keep your options open.  It’s great if you have one school where you really want to go.   But guess what?  Tomorrow you might change your mind.  Or get a rejection letter from that school.  Now what?

The Legend of Private “Reach” Schools and Public “Safety” Universities

Are private schools usually harder to get into, and should public universities be reserved for fallback schools? Reality: Short answer: no.  Long answer: Pretty much no.  Yes, some public universities more or less check for a pulse when admitting students, but others are uber-competitive.  Same goes for private schools.  It’s best to thoroughly understand each school’s admissions requirements and not make any assumptions.

The Legend of Big-School Diversity

This is a popular legend, up there with the Loch Ness Monster.  Loads of folks believe that diversity (of people, opportunities, and experiences) only comes in big packages. Reality: Sure, large schools generally have more ethnic diversity. But all schools are going to attract people with different backgrounds, and at smaller schools, you will be more likely to interact with those people. Plus, even smaller schools have a few thousand people, which means thousands of different interests, clubs to join, activities to learn, and more. Check out What the Heck’s Out There to learn more about the different kinds of schools. 

If You Don’t Know Where You’re Headed, Go Big…The Myth That Undecided Students Need A Big School

Reality: Sure, bigger schools usually have more choices. But they also have more people. For undecided students, a better choice may be a smaller school with general requirements that introduce them to a range of subjects before they need to declare a major.  Also, consider schools with strong advising programs, so you can get some help on which major would be best for you.

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