Dear Estelle. It’s mid-April and I’m having difficulty deciding where to attend college. Having multiple options increases my anxiety daily. Last spring I heard such tales of woe from graduating seniors with high GPA’s and great test scores, who were rejected almost everywhere. Somewhat concerned, I decided to apply to a few extra colleges (total 12) just to be safe. In early March the acceptances started rolling in. Now, with just a few weeks to go before the deadline, I’m contemplating submitting multiple acceptances and housing requests because I need more time to figure it out. Do you have a special formula to narrow it down to numero uno by May 1? LB, East High School
Congratulations! All your hard work in college planning has paid off and you get to make the final decision. Unfortunately, it has given you a major head ache because you’ve been successful! So now it’s very important for you to be attentive to the details and choose wisely. Start by rechecking your priorities. Why are you going to college? Review the factors that were important to you when you first started the college search. Is your preferred major stronger at one college? Is the financial aid package more lucrative? Check the cost and financial aid factor with your parents. Do you like the location? Think about yourself. What do you want to accomplish in college? Compare your choices and see which fits your criteria.
Revisit the colleges’ websites. Look for an area on the site that’s specifically for admitted students. Check for students you can email with questions. Are there students from your high school or family friends who attend these schools. I frequently put my clients in touch with current students.
Many colleges sponsor meetings for accepted students. Prominent alums may attend and even speak. They are recruiting you. While flattering and enjoyable, be sure the school values you for who you are.
If possible, revisit the colleges. Spend a week night in the dorm. Eat in the dining hall and visit a few classes.Talk with professors from academic departments that interest you. Do undergrads have an opportunity to do research? Will you be sufficiently challenged?
*Talk to students about their classes. Talk to them about the academic and social environment on campus. Ask them about campus life, politics, sports, or whatever is important to you.
*If you are a recruited athlete, meet with the coach and members of the team. These are the people you will associate with the most for the next four years. Does this environment feel comfortable?
*If you have academic support needs, be sure to visit the office of the providers who will be responsible for providing this support even though you might not want it now.
*If financial aid is an issue, make an appointment with the financial aid office to review your finances. Take your 2013 tax returns and financial aid application with you. If you have had a change of financial circumstances, discuss it with the financial aid officer. These issues don’t just go away!
*As you visit the campus, inquire about your safety concerns, crime on campus and campus escort service. Is it readily available?
Above all, use good judgment as you evaluate the whole campus environment and social scene. Is it a place you would feel comfortable being for the next four years? So much of this decision comes down ultimately to your gut feeling. Is it a good fit? Listen to your gut. Try not to stress too much about your final choice. If you were careful in selecting your colleges in the beginning, chances are your final choice will be a good one. As you eliminate each option on the way to #1 you will feel liberated.
And don’t double deposit. It will only delay your choice and it’s unethical.