Unsigned: Harmful College Misconceptions and Their Alternatives

   It’s that time of year again: college application season. Many seniors have long since been working on their college applications, and thinking about what the next few years of their lives are going to look like. There is an immense pressure around college, and to add onto it, there are many notorious stigmas, misconceptions, and “must-dos” surrounding the process. Seniors have many preconceived ideas about college, while popular media and bossy family members don’t always help to discern fact from fiction. Seniors are also pushed and pressured from many sources to conform to a “traditional college experience.” These college misconceptions aren’t in every student’s best interest, and there are better alternatives.

   A burning question on every senior’s mind while starting a college application is what they should major in. A common thought is that incoming freshmen must choose a major and stick to it, but this is not necessarily true. According to Study Breaks Magazine, “…an estimated 20 to 50 percent of students enter college as undecided, and an estimated 75 percent of students change their major at least once before graduation” (studybreaks.com). It is not uncommon for students to be unsure of what they want to major in; it’s a loaded decision for an 18 year old. Being undeclared is a perfectly good option, and may even help undecided students be better informed about what they might want to do. According to a website dedicated to helping students find the right college, “If you go to school with an undecided or undeclared major, you will take core educational classes that allow you to explore various subjects and see which ones spark your interest” (collegesofdistinction.com). If students give themselves time as an adult to explore various interests, they may become more certain about what major they want. Making the decision at 18 and sticking to it may cause more damage in the long run, if students find themselves stuck taking classes they hate. It’s perfectly okay to be unsure.

   For those still concerned about their major, there is another misconception: the belief that someone’s major in college will determine that person’s career. According to Forbes, this is not always the case. “While your job will most likely require a Bachelor’s degree, it probably won’t matter what field it is in. According to recent research, 62 percent of recent college graduates are working in jobs that require a degree, yet only 27 percent of college graduates are working in a job that even relates to their major” (forbes.com). Nothing is set in stone, even once people receive their degrees. It is still possible even then for those unsure to change their minds. “For example, history majors who pursued careers in business ended up earning as much as business majors, according to one study” (forbes.com). It is important that students understand their major isn’t necessarily going to be their career; plans change, and a decision made in one’s 20s doesn’t have to define the rest of one’s life.

   People claim that going to a four-year university is the best option for higher education, but they don’t take into account monetary issues some people might have. According to a website dedicated to sharing financial advice, community college can be a less expensive equivalent to the first two years of a four-year college. “Most of the courses required during freshman and sophomore years are available at community colleges and can be transferred to four-year public universities” (moneycrashers.com). Taking care of general education requirements at less of an expense is a smart move for those looking to save. There are also other benefits; Senior Abby Cosgrove, who plans on attending community college, said, “I want to make sure I know that I’m doing first before I leave for a four-year college, and I’ll have a better chance of getting into certain colleges as a transfer student.” Sure, some may prefer to stick to a four-year college, but community college is a pathway that is just as good, and often better, for many individuals.

   Another misconception about college is the perceived necessity to leave home and live in the dorms. This “dorm experience” can easily be a negative one, considering the possibility of being sequestered with unfavorable roommates in a nearly impossibly tiny dorm (forbes.com). Additionally, according to a website about finance, “The average annual cost of room and board is 9,500 dollars, or 10,830 dollars at a private university” (thesimpledollar.com). Considering extra expenses and distracting roommates, staying at home during college years, if given the opportunity, is perfectly reasonable. It’s not uncommon either, with 54 percent of college students still living at home, and for good reason. When living at home, there’s no need to pay for four years of room and board; this significantly reduces money spent and possible student loan debt (thesimpledollar.com). No “iconic experience” should lead to wasting thousands for a possibly unpleasant four years. Additionally, living at home shouldn’t be viewed as a sign of incompetence; college is tough, and students should get all the support they can.

   College is a monstrously large object hanging over the heads of seniors during this time of the year, and misconceptions pushing them to do things they don’t want to do can be extremely detrimental to mental health now and later on. No matter what’s in the media, or whatever family is saying, seniors should be sure to do their own research to figure out what college experience is best for them.