Going to college and earning a degree is a goal of many, but the truth is that a lot of students have no idea what they’re getting into. Young people that are the first in their family to continue on past high school often have little or no guidance in the college application and admissions process.
Even students whose parents did go to college might not have a clear picture of everything—things are a lot different these days than they were twenty or thirty years ago when your parents were in school. Online college and digital textbooks would have sounded like something from another galaxy, and that’s not all that’s changed!
Choosing the college or university that will benefit you the most in the long run is what’s important, and below you will find a list of 10 common myths about college—as well as a bit of information that might help clear things up.
Myth #1: These days, a college degree isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Information about the disappointing job market for new college graduates has some people thinking that it’s not even “worth it” to go to college anymore. Studies show that college graduates typically earn more than people with a high school diploma, but the cost involved in earning that degree is pretty important. If you stick to attending a school that you can honestly afford and avoid taking out excessive student loans, you should be okay.
Myth #2: Your SAT score is more important than your high school grades. Although colleges do take standardized test scores into consideration, your grades and extracurricular activities also play a major role. Don’t give up hope yet—it’s still possible to get into college with a less-than-perfect SAT (or ACT) score. You can also retake the test and see if your score improves.
Myth #3: A college degree guarantees success. Not necessarily! Earning a degree does not guarantee a job after graduation. (See Myth #1.)
Myth #4: I need to select a major before I start college. Some students know what they’d like to study as soon as they start touring colleges during high school, but others have no clue and that’s okay, too! College is a time to grow and explore. Most colleges and universities don’t require students to declare a major until the end of their second year, so use your freshman and sophomore years to learn from required courses and figure out which major you’d like to pursue.
Myth #5: My major will determine my career success. It seems like lists declaring the “best majors” and “worst majors” are released every time you turn around, and the reality is that certain careers pay more than others. That does not mean that you can’t earn a decent living if you choose a “less lucrative” major—some employers couldn’t care less about what you studied during college as long as you’re a creative, hard-working professional that can contribute to their overall success.
Myth #6: Good grades and a high GPA are more important than what classes I’m actually taking. Good grades definitely look good on paper, but the old joke about “an A in basket weaving” holds true. A student that earned decent grades in rigorous classes often look more impressive than a student that earned straight A’s taking obviously easy classes. Challenging yourself is what’s impressive.
Myth #7: Participate in as many extracurricular activities as possible because it looks good. Student engagement has been a hot topic in the media lately. It seems that students who do things on campus other than attend classes are happier, well-rounded people, and potential employers will want to see that you participated in organizations that weren’t required. However, don’t stretch yourself so thin that your grades begin to suffer: the fact that you belonged to six clubs and a fraternity won’t matter whatsoever if you get so behind in classes that you flunk out of college.
Myth #8: Private colleges are only for rich people. Some schools cost more to attend than others—it’s that simple. A hefty price tag may scare away some students that live in fear of accumulating too much debt, but middle-class students are able to attend private colleges and universities. The tuition at the school where I earned my undergraduate degree was right around $300 per credit hour (it’s gone up considerably since my graduation) and I definitely met my fair share of kids that had money, but most of my friends were just like me—we lived with our parents and commuted to school, we drove old cars, worked part-time jobs, and had a lot of scholarships.
Myth #9: I’ll never be able to afford to go to college. Financial assistance is available in the form of grants, loans and scholarships. Most colleges also offer monthly payment plans. Attending school part-time to lower the amount due each semester and choosing a lower-priced college over a higher-priced one is another great way to lower the cost of earning your degree.
Myth #10: If I want to get a job after I graduate, I’d better join a fraternity / sorority. Participating in organizations and activities is a good idea (see Myth #7) but there’s no hard and fast rule that you should join a Greek organization. Some people feel that you may run into a “brother” or “sister” at a job interview and ultimately land the job, but seriously—how often do you think that happens? There’s nothing wrong with joining a fraternity or sorority, but joining your college’s alumni association may very well have the same effect when it comes to job interviews.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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