The Myth of the Perfect College

on March 13, 2017

One of the most pernicious myths is the myth that there is one and only one perfect college for each student.


It is not uncommon for students to feel as though their life is ruined if they don’t get into their first-choice college. Or, worse, they get into their first-choice college but can’t afford to enroll. They get angry at not being able to enroll at their dream school. This taints their experience at the college they ultimately attend.


There are many colleges that are right for you. You can get a great quality education at thousands of colleges.


The elite colleges graduate more PhDs in a year than they hire as faculty. All of those PhDs have to go somewhere else to teach.


If you insist that only your first-choice college will make you happy, you’re setting yourself up for misery. There are almost even odds that you won’t get into your first-choice college. The odds are even worse if your first-choice college is a reach school.


According to the American Freshman surveys by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, 58.9 percent of freshmen in 2015 were enrolled in their first-choice college, followed by 25.7 percent at their second-choice college and 9.5 percent at their third-choice college. So, more than 94 percent of college freshmen are enrolled at the first, second or third-choice colleges.


Incidentally, 13 percent of freshmen said that they did not enroll at their first-choice college because they couldn’t afford the cost. So, even if you get into your first-choice college, there’s nearly a one in five chance that you’ll have to enroll at a less expensive college.


Given that most students end up at one of their top three college choices, perhaps you should try a pick-three approach instead of insisting that there is one and only one college for you. Consider picking three colleges that are good matches for you. You are more likely to get into one of those three colleges than your dream school alone. You will be much happier if you focus on the pick-three approach.

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