For many students, the month of April can be both exciting and scary. They have heard back from all of their schools, and, unless they have been admitted to a school under an Early Decision 1 or Early Decision 2 application plan, they need to make a decision about what college or university they will be attending in the fall.
We know this decision can be as complicated as it is exciting, and students ask us every year for advice on making this decision, so we wanted to share some of our thoughts.
Give Yourself Time
You have spent months, if not years, preparing to apply to colleges. You have worked hard in classes and activities, taken standardized tests, researched colleges and universities, narrowed down your college list, asked for letters of recommendation, written essays, and filled out applications.
And then you waited to hear back and for admissions committees to decide.
You may not have gotten into your dream school. You may not have had a dream school in the first place. Now that you have your decisions, you may be excited or you may be anxious about graduating and leaving high school.
All of these feelings are okay. Give yourself the time and grace to process. Don’t feel pressured to make a decision before you and your family feel ready—and don’t put that pressure on others. Schools give you until Decision Day (May 1st) for a reason. Take your time and consider your options for as long as you need.
Evaluate Your Options
While it’s easy to focus simply on the school during the application process, now is the time to dive into exactly what you were offered in your acceptances. Some of these factors might be:
- Location: Were you admitted to the campus you wanted right from freshman year? If you were admitted to a different campus, what are the requirements to move to the campus you want?
- Timing: Were you admitted for the fall semester or would you have to start in the spring semester?
- Finances: What is the price of the institution? What kind of financial aid or merit scholarships were you offered? Will you need student loans, and if so, how much?
- Incentives: Were you offered admission to the honors college? A merit scholarship? Special housing or other incentives to attend?
- Major: If you applied to a specific major, were you admitted to that major or were you admitted to a secondary one? If you weren’t admitted to your first choice major, is it possible to change majors once on campus? Do you still want to attend a given college or university if you aren’t able to pursue your first choice major?
Do Some More Research
You have likely already researched most if not all of the colleges or universities on your list, but now is the time for a new perspective. If you visit or attend Admitted Student days, try and imagine yourself on campus. Look at social media or see if you can connect with a student who currently attends the college. Try and imagine what your life would be like on campus. Where would you eat, live, study, and spend time?
Make a Cons List
Finally, if you see yourself truly torn between two or more institutions, it may be useful to make a list of just the cons—the factors that do not appeal to you about the school or university. After all, you have already fully considered the pros of each university. Those pros are likely why you applied in the first place, and why you still find yourself intrigued by the school. Making a list of just the negatives will make it easier for you to let go of your second-best option.
Your College Experience is What You Make It
At this moment, this decision likely seems monumental—like it will impact the next four years of your life and your career prospects after that. However, it’s important to remember that your university experience ultimately is what you make of it.
Your university will offer you a range of possibilities and opportunities: courses, research, internships, events to attend, clubs to join, friends to bond with, and connections to make. However, all of these elements require your enthusiasm and engagement. Being willing to explore, participate, and engage meaningfully as much as possible will make just as much difference as the university that you ultimately attend.
A Word About Waitlists
Waitlists, of course, can make this decision even more difficult. We have a blog post that addresses waitlists in detail, but you can use the information below to help you decide if you want to remain on a waitlist at a given university or the university where you intend to put down your deposit while you wait to hear back from a waitlist.