Tips and Advice Blog

Let Your College Search Be Exciting

We often associate the college search and admission process with stress and overwhelm, but it doesn’t have to be that way. A shift in perspective can make all the difference.

Amy Tiberio, Vice President for Enrollment Management

There are thousands of incredible colleges in the United States, and so many amazing opportunities for what you might want to learn, experiences you can have, and ways you can be involved and pursue your passions. That itself sounds exciting in my book! So, how about letting your college search be exciting rather than stressful? You may be thinking “sure that sounds great in theory, but in reality there are lots of things to worry about.” Allow me to offer an alternative perspective on some of these.


1. Getting into college is impossible! The acceptance rates at the best schools are in the single digits.

Well, no, it’s just not true that getting into college is impossible. Sure, the very few most-selective colleges have acceptance rates in the single digits, but there are thousands of other wonderful and high-quality colleges out there. In fact, these colleges may just be a better fit for you. Ask yourself why it’s so important to get admitted to one of these uber-selective colleges. The reality is that the selectivity of the college you attend has no correlation with your likelihood to be successful and to have a fulfilling life. Here’s the secret: it’s really about what you make of it. If you take advantage of opportunities, challenge yourself, and soak up a range of experiences, you are taking the best and most tried-and-true actions for future success. 

2. College is so expensive and the thought of affording it is stressful.

Sure, affording college is a very important consideration. And, I agree, the published prices of many colleges seem incredibly high and out-of-reach for many. So, consider these two points. First, there truly are many opportunities for scholarships and financial aid. Use colleges’ net price calculators (learn more about how they work here) to get a more realistic idea of your cost. And, pursue outside scholarships from organizations and corporations that make funding available. Second, every student’s path to a bachelor’s degree can look different. Starting through a program like RWU’s University College, or at a community college with a pathway that provides transfer credit into a bachelor’s program can be a good solution for affordability. There is no shame in taking the pathway that works best for you. Don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise. 

3. Admission committees want to see applicants who are extraordinarily well-rounded, have taken 100 AP classes, speak 9 languages, play 20 instruments … and that’s not me.

It’s a myth that all admission committees are looking for the same type of student. In fact, it’s really the opposite – we want to enroll a class of new students who are diverse in their interests, backgrounds, and lived experiences. We never take joy in seeing high school students pursue an activity only because it will look good for college when, in reality, it’s not something they enjoy doing at all. We want you to explore and discover the things you love, we want you to take some risks, maybe even falter or fail, and learn from these experiences. We want you to get closer to understanding your authentic self so we can get to know who that is, and then get excited about welcoming that high-potential person into our community.

4. The COVID pandemic really messed up my academic experience and ability to do a college search.

In short, colleges understand. See a previous blog post that speaks specifically to this topic. My best advice is to focus on what you can do rather than what you cannot. Colleges have gotten very creative in the ways that we are offering virtual visits, sessions, and opportunities for connection. Seek these out and give them a chance. The “traditional” college search timeline and process is out the window. But, that’s OK – follow the timeline that feels right for you. Ask for help and advice along the way, and know that things are going to continue to improve over time. And, we are truly all in this together!

Much of the stress that students and families feel in this process is imposed on us by others’ opinions and by exaggerations perpetuated by the media. Take back control over your own narrative! Let it be exciting. You deserve nothing less!

Tips and Advice Blog