It happens to almost every family. They know they need to begin the college search…
How You Pick Your College Could Cost You Lots
No matter if it’s cars or candy bars, every marketplace has one thing in common. The seller hopes to influence the buyer’s decision by appealing to their emotions. That’s the best way to get the buyer to pay more than they would otherwise. But the buyer knows that if they can keep their emotions in check and stick to a rational comparison of pros and cons, they have a better chance of paying less than they would otherwise. In every marketplace, underneath the layers of give and take, ebb and flow, sturm und drang, the battle between the rational and the emotional – the head and the heart – rages on.
There’s no better place to watch this epic struggle play out than college admissions. Colleges and universities spend billions every year trying to find just the right emotional trigger. The idea of the “dream” college experience has been stitched into our psyche by popular culture for more than a hundred years, and colleges and universities have no problem subtly (and sometimes overtly) pointing out how much their campus looks like that idyllic dream school. Mix in a healthy dose of FOMO (fear of missing out) by telling folks all the reasons why applying early makes everything better, and you have yourself a powerful cocktail of emotional allure.
But hold on a second! Why go to college? Isn’t going to college – surviving the inevitable ups and downs and making the financial sacrifices required to pay for it – about something more than just four years of fun?
Of course it is. The goal is to learn a lot, grow a lot, graduate on time, and head off into young adulthood with a job that pays well enough to live independently and plan for the future. To hit all of those milestones in order, the college decision has to be heavily influenced by rational considerations. Which college cultivates an environment that is most likely to foster success and growth? Which college provides the best “bang for the buck”? Which college offers the support systems necessary to help students when they struggle?
So here’s one way to push through the cacophony of marketing and angst-inducing urgency messaging that you’ll encounter throughout the college admissions process. Ask yourself the question: is this college’s marketing, and the way they are trying to communicate their message to me, designed to make me think more rationally or react more emotionally? Just knowing which trigger a college is trying to pull will help you keep calm when things get crazy, be confident when you feel overwhelmed, and keep your feet squarely on the ground when you need to make the right decision.