Finding College Options: How Your Friends Can Help or Hurt Your Search

Finding college options image

The college search is as much about selecting a great school as it is about deciding what you want from your experience. 

For finding college options, you'll likely rely on websites like Go See Campus, college advice articles, guidebooks, or a college counselor or private educational consultant. However, your friends can make just as important an impact.

Finding College Options with Two Brains (or More!)

The more people you have to rely on for your search, the more you'll know at every step. Friends can help you:

  • Discover great online tools for researching colleges.
  • Save you money by sharing guidebooks or doing college visits together.
  • Recommend college prep services or warn about ones that aren't worth the cost.
  • Share resources for finding a college over the summer and prepping for senior year.

If your friends are considering the same set of colleges that you are, there are even more ways that you can help one another. For example, they can... 

  • Introduce you to family members or friends who are currently attending the school so you can ask your questions for college students.
  • Give you a heads-up about a scholarship opportunity or a student organization that might be interesting. 
  • Tell you if a college's Facebook or Twitter page is an excellent resource for connecting with potential classmates and admissions officers.

For all of these reasons, friends can make finding college options easier and more efficient. However…

Opinions are Always Personal

If there's anything that high school has taught you outside of the classroom, it may be a better sense of self: the things that interest you; the motivations that drive you; the learning style that suits you; and the academic subjects that might become a career.

That's all very personal. Even your best friends in the world will likely think about these ideas differently from you. As a result, the opinions that they offer will come from their own perspective.

When friends give opinions that differ from our own, it's easy to feel that going against them is a mistake. It's even worse when these opinions are loudly and insensitively voiced.

Example: One moment, you will think that a certain school is a perfect fit. Then, your "friend" is talking at lunch about how she visited that college, and how stupid the people there are, and how she's not applying. How can you tell her, or anyone who's listening, that you're visiting the same campus next week?

The doubt this situation causes can impact your entire search: college visits, applications, and acceptances. It can also lead you to make the wrong decisions for yourself.

Some Good Rules to Follow When Finding College Options

Trust friends who offer opinions only when you ask them. If you know a "friend" like the one described above, he or she isn't being sensitive to the fact that everyone's college decision should be based on their own experiences and goals. Pay less (or no) attention to what these people say and rely on the people who understand how personal the college choice is.

Listen to friends who think about you (not them.) Real friends know how to tailor the advice they share to what's important to you. For example, you might have friends who visited a college you haven't yet seen…

  • Unhelpful advice they could offer: "The tour was lame. We didn't do anything useful."
  • Helpful advice they could offer: "I didn't really get anything out of the tour, but I know you're thinking about studying drama. The tour actually goes to the new theater building, so I think it's worth it for you to check out."

Rely on friends when finding college options, but make your own decisions. The advice and opinions you get—even when they are from the right people who have your best interests in mind—should only be part of the choice you make.

Ultimately, the college you select should be based on many different factors, including your own experience during campus visits; your interactions with current students, admissions officers, and alumni; the fit with your interests and goals; and administrative factors, like cost, acceptance into the school, and so on.

The right friends will step back and let you make that choice… and congratulate you on getting in and heading on. 

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