After more than a decade working with college-bound students and families, we’ve heard time and time again some of the most common fears about finding the right college. Here, we’ll spell out these fears and talk about how best to overcome them. You’re not alone in struggling with these common fears about finding the right college. Hopefully, you’ll feel a bit more at ease knowing you’re “normal”. And there’s a remedy to help overcome these fears.
If you’ve not yet seen the Facebook Live video we did on this very topic, check it out here. While you’re at it, LIKE US on Facebook to be among the first to know when we release new college planning how-to videos. You’ll find insights on everything from ACT Test Prep to college search and college applications. Students and families tell us these videos are super helpful to learn what to do and when for college planning success.
Let’s dive in.

What are the three biggest fears about finding the right college?

College Fear #1 “I’m not good enough.”

Teen girl looking at laptop in front of college pennants
Bet you thought you were the only one who felt this way. Truth is, this is a big one. We hear versions of this all the time. It may also sound like this, “I’m not as good as so and so.” Parents, who can relate to their student feeling this way? Maybe you as a parent feel this way? Students may not always say this out loud, but we often hear from parents that this is a nagging feeling their student has, and it’s weighing them down.

Comparison kills contentment.

The problem is that there’s too much comparison. Comparison kills contentment. When you hear what someone else is doing or the colleges they’re looking at or what they want to major in, you think, “Wow, they have it all figured out. What’s wrong with me?” When Nancy Know-It-All shares her perfect ACT score and you’re staring at your less-than-stellar scores, you think, “I’ll never measure up.”
Stop yourself. Measure up to what? The only path you need to run is your own. Who cares what anyone else is doing? What counts is what’s right for YOU. If you’re concerned about how your options and progress stack up against those of your friends, you’re using the wrong measuring stick. You’re comparing your insides to other people’s outsides, meaning you’re comparing all your internal insecurities, thoughts and doubts to the edited, varnished, filtered life story that others present on the outside.

Use the right measuring stick.

Believe it or not, they, too, have their own self-doubts, challenges and deficiencies. How do I know this? Because this is true for every single human in the world. Other people are the wrong measuring stick. The right measuring stick is getting absolutely clear about what YOU need/want/don’t need/don’t want in your ideal college experience. (We call this the University of You™). Forget what everyone else is doing. Fix your focus on what you can control and what is your responsibility and your path. You’re not responsible for anyone else’s actions or aspirations, only yours. Chasing what someone else thinks is important won’t get you closer to what will ultimately be right for you. You are unique.
Our College Search services zero in on finding the University of You™, not the University of Them. We find that once students invest some time in self-discovery and can articulate what they need/want/don’t need/don’t want in the ideal college experience FOR THEM, they can then then use those insights to define their unique University of You™. They can then focus on their path versus what everyone else is doing. Plus, finding the right college options gets much clearer and easier. Once you know what you’re shopping for, it becomes much easier to know where to look. You can schedule a Free Consult in person or via video conference to learn more about College Search services to help you ditch the constant comparison and find clarity.

College Fear #2 “I’m going to make a big mistake.”

teen girl smiling in front of college pennants
The path to college is fraught with fear of stepping in the mud. Parents feel this way all the time. Teens often feel this way, too. Consider this. Where do you get your information about college? If you watch the news, no wonder you’re freaked out. Most of what you hear in the media about college is all bad. There’s way too much scary, bad news out there about college. It’s nowhere near the whole truth, but it sure sells ad space, clicks and newspapers. We can all relate to hearing about college admissions scandals, crippling college debt, high transfer rates, low 4-year graduation rates and jobless, debt-ridden college graduates. It’s enough to make you want to hide under the covers and wait out the storm.

Ditch information overload for clarity and structure.

The problem is too much information and not enough structure. There’s no shortage of information about college out there. It’s so much that it can be overwhelming. And not all of the information out there is reliable. Turn a deaf ear to the masses of information and zero in on sources of clear direction that will help you get where you want to go.
We believe that the antidote to fear of making a huge mistake is to have a clear plan, timeline and method for adding the right colleges to your shopping cart so that you know exactly what to do and when. When you have a plan, you can tune out 99% of the noise and just run your race. One outstanding example is a family we’re working with in Minnesota. This student is a junior now. We started working together when she was a sophomore. We sat down and mapped out an action plan and timeline for key tasks by semester that made college planning work clear, easy and manageable. In the spring of her sophomore year, this student and her family spent their spring break touring colleges. This gave them a great sense early on for what does and doesn’t fit. It also made it really clear what standardized test scores and grades she would need to earn admission to her top-choice schools. That has provided a ton of focus for her junior year for schoolwork and ACT test prep.
This family has learned the value of starting early, making an action plan, having a method and tuning out all information but the clear, reliable information that will help them on their college path.

College Fear #3 “I’m going to get ripped off.”

college planner and teen boy reviewing college materials
This super common fear is kind of a Dad thing. Dads, can you relate?? It sounds like, “With our luck, we’re going to get stuck paying way too much for a crappy college, and in the end, it won’t get us where we want to go.” Or simply, “We’re going to go broke paying for college.” Or, “We’re going to miss out on some secret deal that everyone else knows about, and we’ll be suckers.”

Ignore the hype. Focus on key insights.

The problem is too much hype and not enough insight. There’s a lot of hype about college costs. And we each have that friend who goes on and on about the all-expenses-paid scholarship their kid earned, leaving us feeling like a chump. We can end up feeling like we’re on the outside looking in, bound to pay more than we would have if we would have known the secret.
Here’s the thing. There are ways to control college costs, but it’s not obvious and requires some digging. College costs are a little bit like airline tickets. The true cost you’ll pay isn’t obvious or transparent. It depends on where you’re going and what you bring to the table. Finding trustworthy information sources and reliable insights on the true cost of college as well as ways you can save money will help keep this common fear at bay.
For example, merit aid is one key strategy we discuss when helping parents and students get control of college costs. We talked recently with a family and mentioned merit aid and how it impacts college costs. They’d never heard the term “merit aid” before, and it was a game changer. Merit aid is not dependent upon financial need. It depends on your academic achievements and standardized test scores, and it differs from school to school. We specialize in helping students and families find hidden gems and high-value colleges that will reward you for your academic and other achievements.
Dads especially love feeling like they’re the one that got the killer deal for a change. And why pay more than you have to?

What do I do next to find the right college for me?

If you can relate to any (or all) of these common fears about finding the right college, we have good news. We can help. We have a University of You College Search method to find the best-fit colleges for you, and we can also help you get command of college costs and find better value for your college dollar. Schedule a free consult in person (in the Madison, WI area) or via video conference. LIKE us on Facebook and tune in to our free Facebook Live videos for free insights on a successful path to the college of your dreams.