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Searching for a college can be hard, but knowing what not to do will help you avoid common pitfalls. Here are ten mistakes students make when they search for a college.

Mistake 1: Following a friend (or boyfriend or girlfriend)

Following a friend, boyfriend or girlfriend might seem like a good idea, but it usually isn’t. Every person needs something different from his or her school. What might be the perfect fit for one person might not be the right choice for you. Find the school that meets your needs without letting a friend influence your decision. Remember that the best friendships can survive the distance.

Mistake 2: Rushing the process

It’s easy to believe you know what you want in a school, but rushing the decision leads to a knee-jerk reaction. When you make a decision too fast, you might decide without considering all your options first. After visiting the schools, use a pros and cons list to narrow down the options.

Mistake 3: Procrastination

When you’re forced to make a decision last minute, the pressure you feel won’t lead to the best choice. Waiting may limit your options if the school caps enrollment. Bottom line: Don’t wait.

Mistake 4: Not visiting

Although websites and social media give you a glimpse of a school, they shouldn’t be the only way you decide. Visiting the school gives you a sense of how the school feels, whether it seems like the right size and the community both in and out of the classroom. Those are factors you just can’t determine online.

Mistake 5: Making a choice based on nonessentials

Don’t make a decision based on the cafeteria food, weekend activities, or how nice the dorms are. Those things are attractive, but they’re not the essential items that will get you the best education.

Mistake 6: Only focusing on your major

Although you might be 100% certain of your future major, think again. Many students change their major multiple times. If you only look for a school that is good in one subject, you might be disappointed when you decide to switch majors.

Mistake 7: Only focusing on cost

Although cost is important, it shouldn’t be the only factor to consider. Scholarships, financial aid, and grants can deeply offset the price tag. Narrow your choices once you’ve seen the package they offer you.

Mistake 8: Scared away by potential rejection

Don’t fail to look at a school because you think you won’t be accepted. Make a list of schools and then check into the admissions requirements to see if you qualify. You might be surprised at the results.

Mistake 9: Not considering your faith background

Make sure you’re comfortable with the style of worship and theological views. Although Christian schools are made up of a diverse group of students from various denominations, it’s important to feel comfortable dealing with those differences.

Mistake 10: Only looking at local schools

Although you might be more familiar with the schools locally, it limits your choices. The right school might be further away and a much better fit for you.

If you avoid these ten mistakes, you’ll be able to navigate this pivotal decision with ease. Searching for a college is a great way to figure out not only what you need, but what will bring out your greatest potential during your college career.

Sara Ward has a master’s degree in educational psychology and currently writes articles for businesses, educational groups and nonprofits across the web. She also writes a personal blog on faith, adoption and loss at poetsandsaints.com

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