Thursday, April 17, 2014

7 Myths About College

As Dave Barry wisely said, “I believe that we parents must encourage our children to become educated, so they can get into a good college that we cannot afford.”

All kidding aside, with rising college tuitions and large numbers of twenty-somethings graduating with increasing amounts of student loan debt, it is more important than ever that students (and their parents) enter college with all of the information they need to make wise decisions about their majors and future careers. Here are some myths and facts about starting college, plus tips on how to ensure that that students graduate with the best possible career and personal options.

Myth #1: I already know what I want to study in college so I don’t need to do any further exploration.
Fact # 1:
  • 80 percent of college students change their majors at least once during college. 
  • Some students will change their majors 3-5 times. 
  • These changes cause frustration, lost time, money and resources.
Myth #2: I have no clue what I want to study in college, I’ll wait until I get there to figure it out. I don’t have to decide until my 3rd year of school.
Fact #2:
  • College Freshmen with AP and Joint Enrollment credit may need to declare a major as early as their first semester.
  • For many majors it is necessary for a student to take certain classes beginning with the first semester in order to graduate in four years.
Myth #3: I’ll just aim for the best college I can get into.
Fact #3:
  • One-third of all students switch institutions at least once before earning a degree.
  • The most common time for a transfer is the student’s second year. Often cited reasons for transfer are financial, homesickness, change in majors, and poor grades.
  • Finding a good college “fit” prior to matriculation is crucial.
Myth #4: My cousin/best friend/boyfriend loved X University, so it must be right for me.
Fact #4: Experts say to find the best college fit, YOU need to look at colleges that:
  1. Offer a program of study to match your interests and needs;
  2. Provide a style of instruction to match the way you like to learn;
  3. Provide a level of academic rigor to match your aptitude and preparation;
  4. Offer a community that feels like home to you; and
  5. Value you for what you do well. (US News and World Report)
These factors require YOU to understand what’s best for YOU.

Myth #5: It’s too early to think about life after college.
Fact #5:
  • Almost half of college graduates move back home after graduation due to college debt and failure to find a job. 
  • Almost two out of every three recent college graduates are not working in a job close to their field of study. 
  • Forty percent of college graduates say they are working in jobs that don't even require college degrees. 
Myth #6: It’s all up to my SAT/ACT scores, GPA, essays, recommendations, and athletic/leadership/artistic talents to be admitted.
Fact #6:
  • Over 800 colleges no longer mandate SAT/ACT scores for admissions purposes.
  • Admissions officers consistently cite self awareness, authenticity and passion as qualities they most want to see in their applicants.
Myth #7: I know how to study in high school and get good grades. It will be the same in college.
Fact #7:
  • Rule of thumb: put 2-3 study hours in for every hour that you are in class each week.
  • College tests make up a large percentage of your final grade. You will have 2-3 tests over a large amount of course material. 
In my positions at the University of Georgia and University of Virginia, I saw many students who came to college “knowing” what they wanted to do. Sometimes these goals were not based on the students’ abilities, interests or values, but rather on parental or societal expectations. When these students hit a wall in coursework or didn’t like the subject matter, they would be crushed and unsure of the future. Some change during college is inevitable. However, when students enter college with a clear idea of their abilities and interests, they can navigate the ups and downs of the college experience.

To this end, these students can take a simple test that objectively evaluates their natural abilities and strengths, like the Highlands Ability Battery. These types of tests can help students gain self-understanding for college selection and interview processes. They also identify students’ best learning channels, which will enable them to adapt the ways they study and allow for increased achievement. Most importantly, this information can help students make smarter curriculum and major choices, which in turn can lead to better future career choices.

Providing students with the self-knowledge to understand their abilities and to use this information during their college and post college experience can have lifetime benefits, for students and as well as their parents. Who knows, they may not even need to move back home after graduation.
About the Author: A 1988 graduate of GDS, Kim Fisher Turner is currently a school counselor in Athens, Ga. She has spent over 15 years working in education. She is also a licensed professional counselor who sees students and adults for career and transitional issues. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and then received a Master's in Education from the University of Virginia.