College Bound Students: Mistakes to Avoid

College Bound Students: Mistakes to Avoid

Dr. Mark L. Fischer shares his warnings for students in the college application process.

Dr. Mark Fisher
Dr. Mark Fisher

For many high school students, applying to college is an arduous task. After all, there are so many steps in the college application process. From searching for colleges and visiting institutions, to the application process with that essay and possible interviews, to really researching those institutions, sending your best scores, asking teachers for recommendations and much more, you and your family have many college working days ahead.

Will you be mistake-free? It isn’t that easy to be perfect. Allow me to help you avoid those mistakes.

Cost of College

a. Time and time again, parents will let their child know that private colleges are out of the running for applications. That reminds me of a true story several years ago. The student from a local high school wanted to be in or near Atlanta. She was accepted at Georgia State University and Oglethorpe University. Of course, the printed sticker price would favor GSU. The student desired a small school environment. But she realized the wide monetary difference between the two colleges. Bottom line: Oglethorpe was going to cost only $1,000 more than GSU when the final figures arrived after financial aid. The private college became a reality.

b. Lesson: The sticker price may not be the final cost. This counselor has visited hundreds of colleges. After interviewing an admissions officer in his office, I realized the cost of the college was enormous and let the officer know how I felt. He quickly let me know that the printed cost was double what the cost would really be in the end. What a difference between the sticker price and the real cost to a student. Before you eliminate any college only because of the sticker price, carefully study the amount of money awarded to students.

Range of Colleges
a. Only having a list of schools that contain the most competitive colleges is a mistake. A student once told me about his friend who only applied to the most competitive colleges. The friend was an excellent student both in course grades and SAT and or ACT scores. The applicant thought he would at least get into one of those colleges. The outcome was no acceptances. Didn’t the friend know that thousands of students were rejected by those competitive colleges, not because they weren’t excellent students, but because the college could only accept a specific number of them?

b. Lesson: There are many fine colleges to which a student could apply. In fact, some would have been even better choices. Moral of the story is to apply in at least three categories: very difficult; somewhat difficult but more of a chance for acceptance, although not guaranteed; and safety. There are times when some schools on the safety list are just better for that student. That includes a better financial aid package. Yet, your safety schools must be reasonable, fine schools that you would enjoy. If you don’t like a safety, why is it on your list? Secret is that a safety school may be, for someone else, a difficult school.

Know Why You’re Applying

a. Why do you want to apply to a college? My friend likes the school. Is your friend a clone of you? I am going to college to only get a job. How about becoming an educated human being? The college has great athletic teams even though I’m not an athlete. Better be able to get tickets, or the cost for five to six home games paying $40,000 per year in tuition makes those games quite expensive.

b. Lesson: Ask yourself questions such as: Does the college meet my academic interests? Is the learning environment one that would suit me? How much academic pressure could I endure? Will my extra-curricular interests be met? How will the career office help me? Geographically, how far do I want to travel? Will my Jewish religious preferences be satisfied? Is there anti-Semitism on campus? Are Jewish students upset with how the college handles anti-Semitic incidents? Will there be chances for participating in class because discussion is important to me? How good is the college with need-based and merit aid? Will I get to know a few professors well? What are the research possibilities? What about internships? These are just some questions to ask yourself and discuss with your parents. Don’t leave parents out of the picture. ì

Dr. Mark Fisher is a college and career consultant at Fisher Educational Consultants,, and a consultant for the College Planning Institute,

read more: