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Don’t Pick Your College Like you Pick Your Bracket

March Madness is here!  Time to fill out your brackets (You can download them here).

How will you pick your teams? If you’re like many Americans, you’ll probably pay some attention to the team’s athletic rankings…but since you’re choosing on the fly, you might find yourself picking winners based on things like team mascots or school colors you like.

Some people choose teams based on their locations (i.e. “This school is near a beach” or “The weather is warmer at this school than that one!”) Some even choose based on the schools’ academic rankings.

It probably goes without saying that the above tactics probably won’t win Warren Buffet’s March Madness Challenge. They might not win your friends’ or family’s pools either.

But they sure are fun, and it probably won’t cost you more than $10 in friendly betting money if you make the wrong choices.

The same cannot be said for picking colleges for you or your teenager to actually attend.

And the truth is, too many students pick their schools based on criteria similar to those we use to pick our brackets.

Some teens think things like “I want to go to this school because my boyfriend is going there!” and “I like this school’s mascot!” Also–“This school has a big football team,” and “I heard it doesn’t rain much in that town.” And more.

Personally, I know someone who chose his college over a car window decal. A WINDOW DECAL.

But admittedly, my own school decision (years ago now!) wasn’t based on much more. I chose based on athletic conference. (I wasn’t a student athlete).

What myself and the millions of teens who wind up choosing their colleges based on things like the weather don’t realize at the time is the impact these choices have on their futures–for the long haul.

Picking a school that doesn’t have a strong program in your desired career field can negatively impact your future career options.

Picking a school that you have to overpay for can lead to years of student loan debt that may impact your ability to purchase a home later down the road.

Picking the wrong fit could lead to switching schools, which could set you back another year or more (and cost you an extra year or more in tuition).

So how should we be choosing schools? The answer is that we should be looking at their ROI (return on investment).

Choosing schools based on their ROI is a lot like doing your homework. It requires a lot of time and research spent analyzing things like career planning, funding strategies, and fit. It requires knowing the facts and stats about each school. Truthfully, it takes a lot of time and effort–which is another thing many high school students and their parents feel they don’t have.

In the end, though, it’s gonna cost you a lot more than $10 if you skimp on this work. So why not do it right from the get-go? That’s what I can a win.

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