3 rules for choosing a college that you should know about
"Hello, future me? Did I pick the right college to go to?" Source: Robyn Beck/AFP

Rankings. Average SAT score of student body. Reputation. Employment rates. Median graduate salaries. These are familiar terms for anyone who has gone through the college research process. This is the information stuffed into the articles and books that help high school seniors in the next big phase in their life.

Well-meaning they may be, but in 2019, these resources can be a more than a little outdated. Some of these measures – most notably, rankings  – are hardly the best for gauging whether said college will be the right fit. There is no perfect method for making this decision – a college will ultimately be the sum of its many different parts and how they collectively interact with your unique traits.

It requires serious homework. Now we don’t mean to add even more facts and figures to your college search, but if you’re looking for more novel ways to approach the process, here are three takeaways from this year’s reports that you might want to know:

1. Find a college that does not fit you

That’s right – try swimming in the opposite direction towards a college that will turn everything you think you know about life upside down. For example, choosing an ultra-progressive liberal arts schools if you’re a conservative or one with lots of wealthy students if you’re on a scholarship, and vice versa. Be warned that you should only do this if you’re 100 percent sure you want to have an adventurous time in college and that you’re able to take some (figurative) punches.

2. Don’t follow your seniors’ footsteps

Earlier this year, the elite Palo Alto High School in California made news for deciding not to publish a map spotlighting where newly minted graduates were heading off to college. It’s a break with a decades-old tradition, but student journalists at its newspaper said it was time to break with the “toxic” college-obsessed environment.

With a former student’s parents indicted in the college admissions scandal, the obsessions with the “glitz and glamour of a prestigious institution or high GPA” revealed the “ugliest parts” of the college admissions process.

“Whatever you wish to call it — toxic, competitive, cut-throat — the dynamic set by skewed values can result in students missing out on a crucial part of the high school experience: building relationships, discovering passions and developing soft skills,” the editors wrote to the community.

3. Pick schools with clear roadmaps to graduation

According to College Board, it costs about US$35,830 a year to attend a private four-year college and US$10,230 a year to attend a public four-year college, at the time of writing. To minimise the amount of student debt you end up owing, it pays to find a university with high graduation rates.

The CNBC Make It report notes that graduating in four years or less “can significantly impact the amount a student ends up owing”. Going to a school reputed for its high graduation rates – check out US News’ list of colleges here – is a good first step to avoid this financial pitfall.

Liked this? Then you’ll love…

The financial case for investing in a college degree

Why you should avoid writing about Harry Potter in your college admissions essay