Myths in the College Search Process

Tyson Schritter

One of the biggest challenges for counselors is helping students really match their interests to the colleges that suit them best. Students often rule out schools too early in the process, thanks to myths in the college search process.

Myth of Cost: “I can’t pay for this, so why look?”

This trap happens when families look at a school, look at the so-called “sticker price,” and then strike the school off the list, stating that it is too expensive and there is no way to pay for it so why even bother looking at it.


Exploration is free! The only time a school costs you anything is when you apply (application fee), when you visit (the tank of gas, lunch at the diner) and WHEN YOU GO… and that the actual cost of attendance will not necessarily be the sticker price. A realistic discussion about college expenses is important, but so is finding out everything you can about what a college will offer you financially.

Myth of Admissibility: “I couldn’t possibly get in to this school, so why look?”

This trap happens when families look at the statistical averages of grades and test scores and automatically assume that they could not be admitted because they are lower than the averages.


These are only averages. That means that both higher and lower scores are also accepted. Also remember that grades and test scores are only a part of what admissions professionals consider in their decision. Activities, interests, passions, service—all of these could make you a more attractive candidate than mere numbers show.

Myth of Familiarity: “I don’t know that school and no one around me knows it either. It must be a weird place, so why look?”

This trap occurs when students and their families only know a small group of schools that they have either heard of from the media/friends or that they attended themselves.


There are many fantastic schools “hiding in plain sight.” Does it really make sense to overlook a school just because it quietly produces Rhodes scholars and successful CEOs instead of big-name basketball stars? If a school’s programs seem to match your interests, then keep exploring. It could turn out to be just what you’re looking for. Although a familiar place can be tempting to focus on, keeping an open mind allows you to discover another school that shares the same qualities of the place you know well—but that might be an even better match for you.