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3 Costly Mistakes You Need to Avoid When Choosing a College

Updated: Oct 25

By Suzanne Davis and Maria Ann Geffers

For 2 years I felt like a failure.

My parents wanted me to be the first person in my family to get a bachelor’s degree, but after 6 weeks of misery, I told them, “I can’t go on at this college.” I dropped out.


During that time, I worked as an assistant teacher at a preschool and loved it; I started to see a possible career. I went to a community college and transferred to my perfect-fit school, and I soared academically and graduated with my bachelor’s degree in 3 ½ years.

And while my life turned around, I wish it never went awry. Now, I see this phase of my life as a painful learning experience on what not to do when choosing a college.

I met Maria Geffers, Career and College Counselors Co-Owner, 5 years ago. I learned how she (along with Co-Owner Tom Geffers) helps families find the right college and career for their child, and I knew she was the go-to person to help students and their parents find the perfect college.

I’m excited to have her as a guest blogger for this second post in my series, “Top College Admission Mistakes,” because I want you to avoid my missteps in choosing a college. (If you want to avoid test prep blunders, read the first blog post in this series at https://www.academicwritingsuccess.com/5-avoidable-act-sat-test-preparation-mistakes-that-hurt-your-score/.)


3 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a College


High school seniors all over the country will be finalizing decisions on which university to attend. For some, it will be where they spend the next four years of their lives obtaining a degree that will grant them opportunities to work in a field or occupation they love. For far too many, this choice will be where they spend the next year, realizing that it was the wrong institution for them, and will find themselves starting over the following year. For others, it will be where they spend five or six years obtaining a four-year degree only to realize they don’t truly like the career path they are heading down. It doesn’t have to be this way.

One university. One major. Four years. Those should be the goals for every family sending their kids off to college. Failure to achieve these will cost you significantly more money to educate your child. A simple three-step process will greatly increase your likelihood of success in the college selection process: Head, Heart, and Due Diligence.

Mistake #1 Not Using Your “Head”

This process is a logical approach to choosing a college and a major. Before selecting a major, have your child complete a career assessment to determine the career path(s) that suits who they are. Your student should go on job shadows and career interest interviews to have a real-world idea of the jobs they are considering. Once this is done, search for schools with academic strengths in the area that your child is interested. Be sure the institution has a history of graduating students in four years.


Mistake #2 Not Listening to Your “Heart”

You are going to spend a huge amount of money on each child’s college education; shouldn’t they love it? They must love it! Before selection, they need to experience and be excited about the classrooms, the campus, the dorms, the football team, or whatever it is that is important to them. Get them on the campuses and experience what life would be like before you start paying for it. This understanding of a school cannot be duplicated by perusing a brochure or searching the internet. There is no substitution for the real thing.


Mistake #3 Not Doing “Due Diligence”

Financially you must know what these schools are prepared to offer you and what they are going to take from you. Your college selection process should include an evaluation of the percentage of students that graduate in four years and the amount of free need and merit-based aid they are likely to provide your family. You need to know before you select the school how much it is going to cost you.

In the end, you should evaluate dozens of schools regardless of the sticker price. A closed mind will cost you money. By applying this process to each school, you will be able to narrow your choices down to five or six possibilities. Return your applications to all five or six schools, and then allow all offers to come in before making any decisions.


By avoiding these mistakes, your child will find the right career, major, and college and graduate in 4 years with the least amount of money out of pocket.


Do you want to learn more about choosing a college for your high school senior?

Get Tom and Maria Geffers’ new book, Degree of Success: The Right Career, The Right College and The Financial Aid to Make it all Possible available on Amazon at https://amzn.to/3MDaXoc.



You can also find more college and career counseling advice for families on Tom and Maria Geffers Podcast/YouTube Series: College Financial Aid and Career Navigation. https://bit.ly/3D9iDdE



This article originally appeared as a guest blog post on the Academic Writing Success Blog and has been published here with permission."


About the Authors

Maria Geffers is a Career and College Consultant and Co-Owner, along with her husband, Tom Geffers, of Career and College Counselors. With over 30 years in the education field involving levels from secondary to university in both the public and private school systems, Maria created various educational programs in regular and gifted education.

Maria has hands-on experience creating educational curricula that meet the academic needs of gifted and regular education students and AP students. Her work includes college planning, scholarship searching, career planning, administrating personality inventories, learning style inventories, expression inventories, interest inventories, coordinating job shadow experiences, college entrance applications, test preparation, and resume writing.

You can learn more about getting help with career and college planning at www.CareerCollegeCounselors.com


About Suzanne

Hi! My name is Suzanne Davis, and I am an online academic writing tutor. I created Academic Writing Success because I wanted to give college students the writing and academic skills they need to succeed in college.

I tutor students who want to share their thoughts by writing powerful academic papers. I teach students how to write persuasive, informative and interesting academic essays and research papers.

I also write a weekly academic writing blog on this website. These blog posts are full of advice on how to improve your writing and research skills. https://www.academicwritingsuccess.com


My mission is for my students to have confidence in their ability to write for college, graduate school and their future professions.


I believe every student is a writer with something unique and important to say. Every piece of writing has the power to change the world. I help students use the power of writing to change their lives, and make our world better.”

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