Watch CBSN Live

9 dumbest reasons to pick a college

(MoneyWatch) About 1 in 3 U.S. college students end up transferring to another school. One key factor in all this moving around: Teenagers often choose colleges for the wrong reasons.

Your children will reduce their chances of such school-hopping if they avoid the nine dumbest reasons to pick a college. Here they are:

1. I won't attend an expensive school. According to a College Board survey, 59 percent of families eliminate schools based on price. That might sound  practical, but it can backfire. Some of the most expensive schools in the country are also the most generous. Price tags are meaningless; you can get a personalized estimate of what any school will cost by using its net price calculator. (Learn more here: How to find out what college will really cost).

2. I'm interested in the cheapest schools. The cheapest school price tags can be just as misleading. Schools with rock-bottom prices often sport dreadful four-year graduation rates. Choose a school with a low price and you might end up paying tuition for six years or more. According to the federal College Affordability and Transparency Center, West Virginia University at Parkersburg is one of the cheapest state universities in the country, with a tuition of just $2,076. Yet the four-year grad rate at the school is 21 percent, and 43 percent of freshman leave after the first year. 

3. I want to attend a highly ranked school. If you really believe that the 10th highest-ranked university as ranked by US News & World Report is superior to the 50th highest-ranked school, then you don't understand how warped college rankings are. (If you want to know why you shouldn't take your cues from the rankings, read "Why US News' college rankings are a joke.")

4. I want to attend a school with a winning sports team. Isn't it obvious why this isn't a good idea? A school's winning (or losing) basketball or football record has no connection to an institution's academic programs.

5. I'm going to my parents' alma mater. I've run into plenty of students who are expected to attend their mom or dad's school. Why should a student be required to go to an institution because of a parent's ties? If parents want to relive their college days, they should get their fix at reunions.

6. I want to avoid cold weather. I hear this a lot from Southern California students, who worry about frigid temperatures. Making temperate weather a requirement will eliminate most colleges and universities from consideration. As a practical matter, attending a school in a cold-weather climate isn't really a problem since snow removal is provided, no driving is required to get around campus, and dorms are heated -- toasty, even.

7. I need to stay nearby. Fifty-five percent of students attend school no more than 100 miles from their homes. Living so close can prevent students from fully experiencing college life because they are tempted to head home for the weekends.

8. I want to attend school with my boyfriend/girlfriend. Student life staffers urge freshman to start fresh and end romantic relationships before starting college. Imagine following a significant other to college only to break up. Not fun.

9. I need to live in a city. Plenty of students dream of attending a university in a city on the East or West Coast. But many of these schools are extremely expensive while providing poor financial aid. These schools don't have to be generous because so many students want to attend.

Image courtesy of Flickr user JoeinSouthernCA

View CBS News In