Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

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Our counselors answered:

Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

Scott White
Director of Guidance Montclair High School

Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

Pair each eollege accepted into and give a point to the college you would go to if you had the choice between only these two. Go to the college with the most points.

Leah Beasley
President/Founder Beasley College Consulting, LLC

Tips on Making the Big Decision

Visit the college campuses that are on your short list. Even if you've visited the campus before, go again whenever possible! Many colleges offer admitted student programs and these are a great way to gather lots of valuable information about a college. But it's also important to check out the campus on your own. Sit on a class, eat in the cafeteria, visit the residence halls. This is a bit different than previous visits--make sure that you ask any lingering questions about things that are important for you to know to make a well informed decision. At the end of the visit ask yourself two important questions: 1--Do I see myself being happy here? 2--Can I spend the next four years of my life here? Write a list of pros and cons. Just like any other big decision, you need to make sure that you're thoughtful when reviewing your various options. Having students write a comprehensive list of pros and cons (academics, social life, atmosphere, location, etc.) about each college will help make the decision more concrete. Review the list and ask yourself if one college stands out among the other options? Carefully review your financial package. The cost of college has skyrocketed over the past few decades. One year at a private college can cost upwards of $50,000--a four year investment of over $200,000! However, often the sticker price of the institution is NOT what a student will actually pay. Therefore, it's very important that student AND parents sit down to carefully review the financial package that each college has sent to you. Grants and scholarships are GREAT--no need to pay them back. Loans can vary--the best are low interest Federal loans (Stafford and Perkins) and also available are Parent PLUS loans (also a good choice). Many colleges also do not meet 100% of a students need, so you'll need to carefully weigh whether, and how much, going into debt for the particular college is worth it in the long run. If you're unsure about your aid package, contact the financial aid office to ask them to explain it in greater depth. Listen to your gut. Even after a student has done the necessary research on his/her college options, he/she may still be left unsure of which college to choose. I encourage students to listen to their "gut"--does it feel right? If so, celebrate!

CRAIG HELLER
President www.CollegeEssaySolutions.com

You've Been Accepted to Five Schools: Which One Do You Attend?

If you happen to be lucky enough to get accepted to more than one school, it can often be difficult to choose which one to attend. Here are ten ways to make that decision easier. Visit all five schools. Know exactly what degrees they offer and what it takes to get them. Do not make any assumptions. The variables are huge and you must study this rigorously. Decide your preference as far as location (city, rural, East Coast/West), large or small school, social life (Greek or no Greek), athletics (Big Ten school or Division III), and so on. Be honest with yourself. If you have always hated cold weather, the University of Maine might not be for you. It rains a lot in Oregon. Know how you feel about that. Does one of the schools specialize in your area of expertise? A math degree from MIT means a bit more than one from a small unkown college. Try to contact a current student and find out what life on campus is really like. Read, read, read. Subscribe to news feeds from the school. Google like crazy. The more exposure to the school you have, the easier it is to pick up the general atmosphere on campus. Is prestige/ranking important to you? Then factor that in, too. Do you want to be close to home or does it matter? Another factor. Do you have good friends going to one of your schools and not the others? Is this important to you? If so, factor it in. Do you have a gut feeling about one school? Don't ignore it.

Kim Glenchur
Educational Consultant CollegesGPS

Balance two conditions

Ideally, identifying appropriate college prospects balances two conditions: 1. "Fit" colleges where the student can transition from high school and academically thrive. 2. "Selective" colleges for meeting motivated and interesting students, and for access to relevant postgraduate opportunities. Campus visits provide impressions about the surrounding environment, physical facilities, and living logistics.

Ellen erichards@ellened.com
Owner Ellen Richards Admissions Consulting

Master the college choice: how to choose and how not to

So the hard part’s over. You’ve taken the tests, toured the campuses, gone on the interviews, and slaved over applications. And you got good news! Not only did you make it into one school, you made into two! Or three! Or four! Yes, that’s right. Just when you thought your worries were finished, now you have to pick a school. It’s a task that’s more daunting than it seems. It can be intimidating and overwhelming to choose between institutions that all seem qualified – the college experience is one that defines your life, so there’s some pressure in deciding just where you’re going to have it. However, the following guidelines will help you avoid common mistakes and keep you focused on what’s important, so you can be confident that you made the right choice. Location, location, location. It’s important to know in which environments you thrive. Do you need the hustle of a big city to stimulate you, or do you focus well someplace serene and removed? Staying close to home can have benefits both financial and academic – many students will attest to saving money by living at home and making impressive grades without being distracted by the excitement of a freshman dorm. However, equal numbers will claim that exercising their independence by moving away from home was very beneficial to their overall maturity. All of these factors can have an overwhelming affect on your experience as a student, and must be considered. However… Do not choose your college because it is close to a beach, has great weather, offers skiing as a minor, or, despite not having anything academic to offer you, is in a city you’ve always loved. None of the above will benefit you in the long run. Affordable? If you have limited funds to use for college, and you haven’t received any scholarships, you should definitely make a financial plan. If you think you can shoulder the burden of student loan debt after you graduate, then don’t let the tuition stop you from going for your first choice. However, you should still apply for scholarships still open to you, seeking out every financial aid opportunity available, and playing things smart (buying used books, taking more than the required credit hours, or living at home, if possible). Also, if you think that debt after graduation will do nothing but set you back, and there is a comparable program at another less expensive school, then you should consider attending that one instead. The bottom line, if affordability is one of your priorities when choosing a school, the smartest decision will be finding out which institution will give you the most bang four your buck, and going there. Because… If you go to a school just because it’s cheapest, but you haven’t considered its other shortcomings, you’ve wasted your money. Academics…: When it comes to academics, it’s important to remember that, first and foremost, you’re at a school to learn. It’s helpful to have at least a vague idea of what you’d like to study, so you can choose an institution that has programs related to it. While no one likes to place more pressure on college students than there already is, it’s not a good idea to go in undeclared. College is just too expensive to waste any time trying to “find yourself” by trying on all sorts of different majors. But… It is very common to place academics in a position of such importance that some students forget that other elements affect the college experience. If a school has an academic program you like, but nothing else to offer you, it’s not going to be a good match. Size does matter. It’s important to know how many people you’d like to be surrounded by – will you learn better when you have small classes and personal attention from your professors, or do you work more efficiently when you’re independent and can blend into the background of large lectures? Larger universities often mean more variety in everything from courses to activities to people to living arrangements. However, they also mean you can get lost in the shuffle at a time when you might need a tightly-knit community of support the most. Conversely, smaller universities can offer more personal attention, but only the more elite universities will have the same variety in classes, activities and people as the above-mentioned larger schools. And many students find that smaller universities become a breeding ground for the high school-esque conflicts and immaturity most of them are dying to escape. Think about the people you’ll be going to school with, because, unless you live at home and commute, these people will make up your friends for the next few years, and it’s a good idea to make sure that they’re people you might want to spend time with. Just remember… it is not a good idea to go to a school just because a bunch of your friends are going there, or because the love of your life will be a starting freshman basketball player. What’s there to do? Are you into sports? Do you want to continue your high school drama hobby? Are social justice and political awareness two things very important to you right now? What activities your campus has to offer you will become an important part of your life outside academics. If your school has opportunities that match your interests, you’ll be able to build a social network around those with similar interests. Fun’s an important part of your experience, so don’t count it out. Nevertheless, don’t go to a school because you’ve heard they have a wicked Ultimate Frisbee scene. These aren’t all the factors you’ll need to consider when choosing your higher education institution, but they cover some of the most important basics. Make sure you’ve visited every school, prioritized what’s most important to you in the college experience, spoken to current students where possible and even talked with your parents about their insights. The right place will reveal itself before long if you’re willing to put in the work of a little research.

Erin Avery
Certified Educational Planner Avery Educational Resources, LLC

Pros and Cons

Once accepted, a "Pros and Cons" list will help to narrow and isolate the college that will be the Best Fit Decision for you. Talk it out. I use poster-sized Post-It paper and Scented Colored Markers. Once you speak it and see it, at that stage in the process, it should be self-evident. If not, revisit what you originally envisioned college to be and examine which college most closely matches your first instincts.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

College Comparisons

There are a number of factors to consider before putting down your deposit on May 1st. One, can you afford the school? Two, does it offer everything you are looking for or will you be compromising. Three, does your gut just tell you this is the one? Definitely take advantage of Admitted Student Days, so that you give yourself another opportunity to evaluate the campus. Don't stop researching, just because you have an offer. Now is the time to drill even deeper to determine the best fit.

Helen Cella

Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

Compare the programs that interest you and the cost of attendance

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

What A Great Problem to Have!

If you are accepted to more than one college and you are torn about deciding among them -- then --- congratulations! Congratulations on your admission and congratulations on intelligently designing your college search so that you now have wonderful options. That said -- how DO you choose? I highly recommend visiting (or re-visiting) each of the campuses and attending admitted student events. Also -- check out the admitted student Facebook pages and Twitter feeds for each of the schools. You can learn much more about a school once you are an admitted student and this added information can be extremely helpful to you deciding on which lucky school gets to count you as a student!

Yolanda Spiva
Executive Director Project GRAD Atlanta, Inc.

Choose a College Based on Your Professional & Personal Goals

Once accepted, examine the attributes and financial aid packages of each accepting college, in order to determine which is the best fit for you and your future plans. You should choose a college based on affordability, class sizes, social environment, and location. Examine what you consider to be important or what you perceive to be a fit for your individual needs, in order to choose between multiple colleges. If you are a student who craves interaction with your family of origin, then a college close to home may be the best fit. If you are not comfortable with residing proximate to the opposite sex, then co-educational dormitories are likely not to be a great fit for your personality. Tune into yourself for what you need, like, or desire, then consder a college which meshes with your personal preferences or priorities, prior to making a decision between colleges.