Pumpkin Spice, Hallmark Movies and The Myth of “The One”: Finding Your College Fit This Fall

In the quest for the perfect college, many students and families tend to fall into a common trap—the belief there is one “perfect college” out there, just waiting to be discovered. Like searching for the perfect date or spouse, the search for a perfect college is fraught with unrealistic expectations.

At CCA, we’d like to offer a different perspective—one which acknowledges that most students have multiple colleges to choose from that will both make them happy and enable their success. Finally, we’ll offer advice from some of the best authors on the subject. 

It’s the middle of September and we are likely only a days or minutes away from Hallmark’s seemingly endless parade of cheesy holiday movies. Whether you love them, hate them, or pretend to hate them and watch them when no one is looking, you probably know the formula:

1. A driven woman who’s sacrificed her romantic life for a big-city career is dropped into a small town by circumstance. Maybe its a failing family business, an old friend’s wedding, or a job assignment she resents. 
2. Despite her initial reluctance, she finds herself falling in love with “The One” and we spend the rest of the movie waiting for her to realize what we already knew- this person is perfect for her. 

Wait, really?? Out of the 332 million people in the United States and 8 billion people in the world, every single one of these women (and men) find the one (1???) person who will make them fulfilled and happy? If you believe that, then you probably also believe there is only one perfect college or university, out of the thousands across the country for you or your student. Yes, it’s amazing when a student falls in love with a college but that doesn’t mean it was the only one that would have fulfilled their goals. 

In fact, ample evidence exists where you go to college is less important than what you do while you’re there.  A recent academic study by the Purdue/Gallup Index found “The type of school alumni went to —public or private, small or large, very selective or less selective —was far less likely to be related to the quality of alumni’s lives after they graduated than specific experiences they had in college.” 


“The type of school alumni went to —public or private, small or large, very selective or less selective —was far less likely to be related to the
quality of alumni’s lives after they graduated than specific experiences they had in college.”

Purdue University/Gallup Index

Prominent human behaviorist and author Malcolm Gladwell, did a meta analysis on the factors leading to post-graduate success and found students don’t have just one “perfect college.” Instead, he encourages students to focus on finding a colleges where they are likely to have experiences which match their academic interests, then using affordability to choose between them. One of the world’s leading experts on college admissions, Jeffrey Selingo, argues against the idea of one “perfect college” as the deciding factor in student to success. He underscores the need for students to consider factors like affordability, career outcomes, and the colleges’ alignment with their interests ahead of academic reputation and name recognition. 

Conclusion:
I want to leave you with advice posted to an admissions forum I am a member of from a father who has sent six students to college. He’s a wise man, indeed. 

“General advice below from someone who’s been on here long enough to learn my top bits of college application advice:

1) Speak with your kids early and often about the costs of school and the realities that entails.
2) Related to #1, try to avoid “falling in love” with a school, especially one clearly out of your price range.
3) Visit as many school campuses as you can early on – close to home and inexpensively if cost is an issue – it helps you and your child learn what they like and don’t like.
4) Really avoid the temptation to focus on “prestige”. What matters much more is if you can realistically afford it and how your child performs once in that school. Everyone focuses on the same top 50 schools. There are hundreds more outstanding schools out there.”

-A very wise man, who asked to remain anonymous