Pick an article about students looking at college.  Any article.

Pick an article about students enrolled in college.  Almost any article.

Look at the client list of almost every college counselor/planner/consultant in the nation.  Almost every counselor.

You must conclude that the average American College Student attends a 4 year institution, starts college at 18, finishes at 22, and probably lives on campus.

And if you read an article about college admissions, it would be fair to assume that most students attend the same 15 or so schools that are always quoted and mentioned in articles about admission trends – Harvard, USC, The George Washington University, Stanford, MIT, Princeton among a few others.

I certainly encourage you to keep reading.  But stop believing what you read.

The Average American College Student (as opposed to your “typical” American College Student – that creature does not exist) attends Harvard, but also attends the University of Phoenix, Truman State, Goldey-Beacom College, Delta State, Union County College and about 3994 other colleges.  He is far more likely to be attending a public institution (77%) than a private 4 year college (12.7%).  Even among the usual suspects (ages 15-23) the percentages are almost as dramatic (76% vs. 15.3%).

She is most likely to be a female (55%).

He is quite likely to not be within the “traditional” ages of 18-21.  8.2 million college students are, but over 11 million are not.  Over a quarter of all college students are part-time students and over 600,000 have a disability.

In fact, more than 1 million college students are older than me.

No way, Mr. Szarek!

Way, Brad.  Way.

The Average American College Student has a job.  In fact, about a quarter of all college students work full-time.

The Average American College Student will not graduate from the program he is currently enrolled in.  At least not within 6 years.

The Average American College Student is not who you think, doesn’t go to the school you are thinking of, is not taking the amount of courses you think she is taking and is not finishing when you think he is finishing.  If she is finishing at all.

The American college community is as diverse as the nation it represents.  The students are not “one size fits all” and neither are their academic programs, modes of delivery, methods of learning, financial situations or choices of college.

This is the greatest strength of the American College Community.  And its greatest challenge.   As you look at schools for your child or yourself, understand that there is a place for you in that community.  And don’t cheat off someone else’s paper – because the right college for that person may not be the right college for you.

Just saying…

NOTE: Data used for this blog post come almost entirely from two sources: 1) the U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, October 2009.  Release Date: February 2011 and 2) The National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, as presented by the Chronicle of Higher Education in their December 2010 article, “Who Are the Undergraduates?”

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at info@cc4therestofus.com, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR.