By Sarah Wright
1. Sports Team Fandom
There's nothing wrong with enjoying college sports, and if you've been following or rooting for a team for a while, you might feel attached to that particular school. But a good football team doesn't necessarily translate to a good school that's the right fit for you, no matter what those halftime commercials might say. It's sensible to include sports teams among your criteria for which school you want to attend, but it's important to remember that ultimately, you'll be attending college to learn and prepare for a career, not to go to football fantasy camp.
2. Family Legacy
So your grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and older siblings all went to State U. Good for them! But why does that mean that you have to follow in their footsteps? Some families can be weird about preserving an alumni legacy, but your college decision should be up to you and you alone.
Even if the brainwashing has worked and you're convinced that State U is the only school for you, you should spend some time on campus and make sure you aren't just blithely following tradition. It might turn out that you're the first member of your family to realize that State U isn't so great after all.
3. Pop-Culture Interpretation
Your favorite TV show focuses on a quirky, loveable protagonist who ends up going to Quirky Loveable Liberal Arts College. On the show, the school is portrayed as the kind of place where gesso-spattered art students make adorable small talk with well-dressed philosophy majors, all while mentioning school as if it's an extracurricular activity.
The school may seem perfect on TV, but don't be shocked to find that in reality, the students at Quirky Loveable Liberal Arts College tend to work so hard that there's not much time for small talk, and the campus culture is far from what your favorite show portrayed. You should do your own research and make sure your perception of a school is realistic.
4. Social Life
Let's say your best friend has her heart set on a specific school that's doesn't have a department for what you want to study. Or maybe your girlfriend already attends Big Research University, but you always wanted to attend a smaller school with more personal classes. In these cases, the temptation may be great to follow your social life to school.
This isn't a great way to pick a school, though. Unfortunately, you might find that the inevitable changes people go through in college drive a wedge between you and a person who currently seems like a Siamese twin. If your friendship or relationship was the only reason you chose a school in the first place, you could end up pretty unhappy with your choice.
Like the other criteria on this list, it's fine for location to be one of many things you consider when choosing a school. But it shouldn't be the end all, be all. Going to college within short driving distance of a beach would be awesome, but if you end up hating your life at the school, the ocean probably won't offer much consolation.
Don't worry too much about choosing the right school - you can always transfer if you are miserable your freshman year.