College Search Blunders That Will Cost You Plenty

The college search process is one of the most important endeavors a high school student will undertake. If you are not careful to avoid these mistakes, it could and has cost many students tens of thousands of extra dollars. Don’t make the same mistakes… or it will cost you too!

Finding the right college the first time could save you the costly expense of having to transfer to another school, mid-semester, mid-year or after year one. Most students that transfer because they dislike their school will add a semester or more to their total education time-line. At $2,500 to $15,000 per semester for tuition alone, this can make a big dent in your education budget.

Common Mistakes:

  1. Narrowing your initial search to only 2 or 3 schools: If you only look into two or three colleges, you may be missing the opportunity to find your best fit school. Initial college searches should include between ten to twenty schools within your areas of interest. There will be plenty of time to narrow your focus as you begin exploring the schools on your list.
  2. Not taking online or virtual tours first: Go to each college’s website and look around, its FREE. Check out their admissions, financial aid, campus life and local area pages. Many universities now offer online virtual tours which highlight the campus before you ever spend a single dollar to visit. These will usually showcase the nicest aspects of the college, so if you are not interested after seeing this, you may want to delete this school.
  3. Not including at least 2 or 3 private colleges in your search: Private colleges may offer substantially more financial aid and less out-of-pocket cost than a state school. Don’t let their higher price tag for admission scare you away from including these universities in you initial search. Make a point to visit these private school open houses before you apply and ask for a free application. More often than not they will give you a voucher or an online code that will waive their $25 to $75 application fee.
  4. Not attending at least 5 to 10 campus open house tours and meals: The decision you are trying to make is a big one… and an expensive one. Do your research and take the time to physically visit the campus. Most schools offer great tours given by current students and in some cases they offer you and your family a free meal in the dining halls. Take advantage of these free visits and let them help you rate your experience.
  5. Not visiting financial aid office, department heads, activity leaders: As you begin narrowing down your choices, it is important to visit the financial aid office, any department head that you can make contact with and the leaders of any special interest activities or sports you are interested in. Meeting these key individuals face-to-face can provide a wealth of information and may be a deciding factor when you make your final decision.
  6. Not staying overnight at each of your top 3 choices: Finally, I have found it invaluable to arrange an overnight stay at your final 2 or 3 schools and get a real world look at the campus. Arriving early on a Friday, attending a few classes, spending the night in the dorms and experiencing the night life can be a real eye opener. Then take some time on Saturday to explore the campus, have lunch and head home. The admissions office can usually arrange these visits. They may charge a small fee for food or lodging, but the cost will be well worth the experience. After 2 or 3 of these visits, a clear winner usually emerges.


By avoiding these mistakes and using this methodical approach to selecting your college, most students will be able to find a college that is a great fit for their future. It will also reveal the school that is most interested in helping you to achieve your education goals. I have found that by taking the time, effort and expense to make a thorough search upfront, it will save even more time, headaches and money in the long run.

If you would like to discover some great tools to assist your search along with specific strategies to help maximize financial aid and reduce the high costs associated with college, you can download your FREE College Cost Savings Kit by clicking here []. Download, print and share it with your friends or family. I’m confident it will help you to find new ways to save, get the most out of your college education… and do it all for less.