Once accepted, how do you decide on a college?

Making the decision to attend college is a big one. It’s important to consider all of your options and choose the school that is the best fit for you. If you’ve been accepted to multiple schools, how do you decide on a college?

There are a few things to consider when making this decision.

Compare the cost of attendance

The cost of attendance could be one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a college. Make sure to compare the total cost of each school, including tuition, room and board, and other fees. Also, look at the average amount of financial aid that students receive at each school. This can give you an idea of how much you may have to pay out of pocket.

Compare the location

Location is another important factor to consider.

Think about what is important to you in a school. Do you want to be in a big city or a small town? Do you want a small school where you know everyone, or a large school with more options? Consider the size of the school and how it will fit into your plans. Do you want to be close to home or travel far away? Consider your needs and wants when making this decision.

Compare the academics and programs

The academics and programs offered by each school are also important to consider.

There are a variety of different majors and minors available at schools across the country. Make sure to find a school that offers a major or minor that you’re interested in. You should also look at the faculty at each school. Do they have experience in your field of interest? What kind of research opportunities are available?

Compare the campus life

The campus life is another factor to consider when choosing a college.

Do you want to be in a school with a lot of students or a smaller school? Do you want to live on campus or off campus? What kind of extracurricular activities are available? Consider your lifestyle and what you’re looking for in a college experience

What kind of clubs and organizations does each school have? Do they offer intramural sports or other activities that you’re interested in? Make sure to find a school that has a campus life that you’ll be happy with.

Narrow it down to your top two or three schools

Once you’ve considered all of the factors mentioned above, it’s time to narrow down your list of schools. Make a list of your top two or three schools and start doing more research on each one. Visit the campus, talk to current students, and reach out to the admissions office with any questions you may have.

The decision of which college to attend can be difficult, but it’s important to think about what is best for you. Weigh all of your options and choose the school that is the best fit for you.

Now that you have read what we have to say, hear it from real college advisors:

Dr. Bruce NeimeyerCEO/PartnerGlobal College Search Associates, LLC

Once accepted, how do you decide on a college?

If you have done your homework prior to applying you should have decided on these schools for very specific reasons. I encourage students to return to those reasons and start filling in more information. At the stage of acceptance you have probably learned more about the schools in relation to your initial selection criteria. Fill that information in. Now expand it. Are there new things you wish to consider now that you have been thinking or picturing yourself at those schools. Make a pro and con list for each school. What does this tell you? If there is a clear “stand out” school or if there are several, I suggest returning to campus for another look. It will either confirm what you believe you saw the first time or now that you are paying attention to some of these things more seriously, you might see the school in a whole new light for good or for bad. Each of these steps should help you to visualize your self in the setting better to know if this will be the right fit for you or not. Just remember to be true to who you are and not who you wish you were in making the final decision. The former will always lead to a better decision!

Carita Del ValleFounderAcademic Decisions

Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

You look at the financial aid packages, graduation rates, and student load indebtedness for starters. Then you identify that the academic program will suit your needs and the university is in the right place with the rights folks for your to thrive. Once this is all done, you look at your campus tour notes and do some soul searching to recall which one felt right.

Zahir RobbCollege CounselorThe Right Fit College

Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

Assuming you have only applied to schools you want to go to (highly recommended), the next step is to make a decision. Many factors can determine where you decide to go. Look at financial awards, compare your pre-admission ranking lists and look over all the options. You should here back no later than April, giving you about a month to make that final decision. Use Spring Break to visit the campuses and look at what each has to offer. In the end, think about what made you apply to each school and make a decision based on what you want, not what others may think is best.

Reecy ArestyCollege Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & AuthorPayless For College, Inc.

Once accepted, how do you pick colleges?

Often it’s financial aid that matters, even though that shouldn’t be the deciding factor. The best curriculum is the #1 priority – and always will be!

Mark GathercoleUniversity AdvisorIndependent University Advising

Once accepted, how do you decide on a college?

You didn’t believe it, did you, when someone told you that the final choice of colleges would be tougher than deciding where to apply! If you did your research well and all the colleges you applied to were places you would like to be for four years, it makes it a tougher decision, but a nice problem to have – because you can’t make a bad choice. It’s a nice problem to have, but is still confusing. Go back to your research, read about the choices again, visit their websites – then go with your instinct, without second-guessing yourself. Going to college is partly about taking steps forward that involve a little risk – and this is the first big one. Chances are huge that you will like the school you choose and make it your place; and in the unlikely event that doesn’t happen, transfer is not that difficult. So make your choice, get the t-shirt, don’t look back, and make it your school!

Lorraine SerraPresident/FounderPortfolioPrep

Once accepted, how do you pick colleges?

Choosing between colleges is partly a logical decision, and partly a “gut” decision. By all means visit each college if at all possible after you have received an offer of admission. The amount of info and “feel” you will get for a college cannot be understated. In many cases, you’ll know quickly whether you’ll fit in, and if that particular place is one where you’d like to live for the next four years. On the practical side, there’s no better substitute for a “Pro and Con” list for each college. Factor in such important things as your financial aid package, distance, availability of intended major, social culture of the school, etc. When you have this info in front of you, it’s easier to see what each college really offers you. Depending on what is most important to you, you may have an easier time of making a final decision.

Rebecca JosephExecutive Director & Foundergetmetocollege.org

Once accepted, how do you decide on a college?

First, be proud of yourself for getting into colleges that match your talents and interests. Next, eliminate the colleges you know you don’t want to attend. Let them know so they can accept kids off of their waitlists. Then there are several things you need to do. 1. Finances. Did any of the colleges give you better aid packages? Talk with your family about how finances play a part in your decision. 2. Talk to kids who attend the college from your city or high school. Ask them about what makes the college a good fit for them. 3. Attend local admit events. You can meet people from the college–alumni, current students, admissions officers–you can help you. 4. VISIT. Please, please visit…spend the night in a dorm. visit classes and events. Research academic strengths, social life on and off campus, and support programs. 5. Then come home and make a list, a chart, a plan. YOU CAN CHOOSE THE RIGHT COLLEGE. This college will provide access to programs and people that will change your life for the better.

Geoff BroomeAssistant Director of AdmissionsWidener University

Fit Happens

It is all about Fit. First it’s the academic fit. Then it is the social fit. Hopefully you have been accepted to a college that “fits” into these categories. The final piece of the puzzle is Financial Fit. It has to make sense in terms of dollars and cents. But you won’t know this final piece until Late March or early April. Once you have the Student Aid Report from each college, then you can compare offers and make good decisions.

Lora LewisEducational ConsultantLora Lewis Consulting

Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

In the current financial climate, I see more and more students using financial aid offers as the primary factor on which to base their decision. In some cases, it just makes so much more sense financially to select one school over the other that it’s almost a no-brainer.

If this isn’t the case, do second campus visits if possible. Sometimes what seemed very appealing in spring of junior year has lost it’s luster by spring of senior year, and you might be able to eliminate some options.

Still stuck? Make a thorough list of what you want to get out of your college experience. Choose the school that meets the largest number of your requirements. It’s a cheesy approach, but it can help clarify your priorities in your mind and see how each school really stacks up.

Sarah ContomichalosManagerEducational Advisory Services, LLC

You are in! How to decide which school.

If you have applied for financial aid, the first step to compare the packages. If your preferred school is offering a less generous package think seriously about what makes it your first choice. Graduating in four years with as little debt as possible for you and your parents is an important consideration. Assuming several packages are comparable, visit the schools prior to the May 1st response deadline. Many colleges host overnights or other events for accepted students and this is the time to get any final questions answers. In the end go with your gut feeling as to where you would be most successful.

Judy ZoddaFounder and PresidentZodda College Services

Accepted, now what?

The hardest work is over, or so you thought. However, you’ve got several acceptances in hand and you don’t know which college is the best fit for you! Pick your top two or three and then It”s time for an overnight visit. The Admissions office can help you with this. I like these visits better than the “accepted freshman welcome day” special events that are scheduled with a lot of hoopla. A campus overnight gives you a look at what a typical day is like. You can request to attend a couple of classes in the department in which you are interested. Also, find out if you can speak with a professor in your area of interest and if the possibility exists for you to study or do research with him. If you don’t know what you want to study, that’s fine as most freshman are undecided. If you haven’t yet sampled the food, this visit will give you the opportunity to have several meals on campus. You’ll get a good look at the students who are attending and figure out if these are the kind of students you can see yourself being friends with. Finally, ask yourself if you can see calling this place home for the next four years of your life? If the answer is yes, you’ve found the right place!

Mollie ReznickAssociate DirectorThe College Connection

Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

If you are really torn between a couple of schools and don’t know which to choose, the best way to decide is to fully experience each school. You can do this by scheduling an overnight at each school. While you are there, attend classes that interest you, speak with professors, get a sense of the student body, eat in the dining halls, and really try to envision yourself as a part of the community. Your choice will become clear.

Margaret TungStrategistYale University

Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

1. Which one gives you the greatest access to resources and opportunities you might be interested in?
2. Which school has given you the best financial aid package, if you’ve applied for one?
3. Visit and see where you’d be most happy. If you can’t visit, go to some accepted student receptions in your area and assess whether you can see yourself going to college/spending four years with them.

Eric Beers, Ph.D.College and Career CounselorAir Academy High School

Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

This is a very individualized question. It is based on a lot of personal and family factors. If financial consideration is a huge question to your family, the financial aid and scholarship package maybe very important. The overall quality of the education you will receive at each school is an important consideration as well. The most important consideration is personal fit and feel of each college. You might have an top-notch, very selective school on your finalist list, but it doesn’t feel right to you; maybe too competitive, too much back-stabbing, or trying to crowd each other out to be the best student. Maybe a smaller liberal arts college feels much better, much more at home, to you. If there is any way possible, my best advice is to visit your final 2 or 3 schools, really analyze the students, professors, atmosphere, and decide for yourself where you can do your best learning and growth as a person.

Cheryl Millington

Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

Congratulations! You now have an even tougher decision to make. I suggest that you refer to your original research. Remind yourself of what attracted you to each school and perhaps how you ranked them at that time. How did you feel about each after you visited the campus? Did you like one more than the other? Probably the only new information you have now is scholarship and financial aid. But do not automatically go with the school that offered the larger financial assistance. Make a list of the pros and cons of each school and see how they stack up. If you are still stuck to make a decision, talk to more students and hopefully that will help you decide. The good news is that you have great news, just take your time and decide. Congratulations, once again and good luck!

Joan Thomas

Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

I would hope that you had a priority listing of your colleges when you applied. Once you have all your acceptances, time to do another pass at research. Can you answer the following questions about your top 3-5 colleges?
1. Total cost of attendance
2. Retention rate
3. Graduation rate 4 -5 years
4. Did you tour the campus
5. Do they have the major you are most interested in
6. Did you rank class size-access to professors-internships
7. Scholarships? Merit aid? Athletic or talent aid?

Katie ParksFormer Admissions Counselor

Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

Once accepted, there are a few things to consider when deciding which one to choose: (After congratulating yourself on all your acceptances of course!)

Academics: Does this school have the major or course of study you wish to pursue? If you are an undecided student, how does this school help you make that choice, and how many majors do they offer in your general field of interest. If you know what you want to study, what opportunities are there for additional research, internship or practicum experiences?

Cost: Some schools may offer you different levels of financial support. Some could offer you scholarship money, or enroll you in work-study, or give you minimal financial aid and request you take out loans. While money should not be the only factor, it is a big factor when it comes to figuring out if you can actually afford to attend the school you want.

The Personal Touch: There are often factors that are important to you about a school (say you want a school that has an awesome football team) that just are no big deal to someone else (while your next door neighbor hates football, but really wants to be on a dance team). Every student should make a list of the top 3 things they’re looking for in a school. This can even include the type of residence hall you want to live in, opportunities to work on campus, or the public transportation system the school runs. These 3 things will be different for every student, and before you make any decision about what school to go to, you should sit down and think about what you really want from your campus.

The “X” Factor: Often selecting the right school comes down to “fit.” Does this place feel right to you? Can you see yourself studying here, engaging with other students, achieving success. If you feel uneasy about a school before you even get there, it can often be a struggle to ever find a comfort zone there. Trust your gut – you have to like where you’ll be spending the next few years of your life. (If you attend a residential school this will be your new home, so you want to be comfortable there!)

Rachael PlantStudentUAB

Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

Think about what you’re majoring in. Which school has the better program for your major or career course? Keep in mind that you want to attend the best school in the field or career you’re interested in. Think about what kinds of jobs you’ll be looking for once you graduate and consider which college future employers will more likely be impressed with.

Annie ReznikCounselor/CEOCollege Guidance Coach

Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

When you are trying to identify the best school, think less about the schools and more about you. When you focus on factors, not specific schools it will bring clarity to finding the best fit for you. What are the 3-5 most important characteristics of a college for you? Be as precise as possible (“fall football feel” is better than “good vibe” and “excellent classic ballet instruction” is better than “dance major”). Assign weights to these factors: is dance going to be 50% of the decision? or are you likely to change your major?

You should solicit opinions from key stakeholders (i.e. parents). When you collect feedback from others, don’t let them tell you the best school–ask: what characteristics do you think are most important for me to find in college? Ask them assign weights, too. You may think that money is the most significant factor to your parents, when in reality they most value the quality of instruction at a given institution.

Joyce Vining MorganFounder and college counselorEducational Transitions

Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

Make a list of all the elements you can compare and contrast: the academics, the finances, the facilities, the “vibes” … and consult your heart: which most appeals to you? As you compare and contrast, the obvious will emerge – whether it speaks through academics, finances, extracurricular opportunities, or the people you met there.

Leah BeasleyPresident/FounderBeasley 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 HELLERPresidentwww.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.

Scott WhiteDirector of GuidanceMontclair High School

Once accepted, how do you decide on a college?

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.

Dr. Carol LangloisFounder/CEOHigher Education Specialists

Once accepted, how do you pick colleges?

Choosing the right college for you can be a difficult process. The top 2 most important factors are: fit and finances.

When I say fit, I’m referring to the school matching your initial criteria that was important to you at the beginning of your search. Some of these factors may have been proximity to home, size of campus, your major as well as campus facilities. Fit also includes those unknown factors that you only discovered once you’re able to see the college campuses and talk to the students & staff. These factors can end up being just as important. Such as, how helpful or accommodating are the administrative offices such as financial aid and the registrar? Or, how approachable are the faculty in your major and do they have flexible office hours? Lastly, there are those intangibles such as the “feel” of the campus. The “feel” of the campus usually comes from your gut and sometimes it can’t be explained, but all college campus will either gives you a good feeling, no feeling, or a bad feelings. Always listen to what your gut is telling you when making that final decision in conjunction with the other criteria mentioned above.

The 2nd factor I was referring to was finances. There’s nothing worse than a student attending the college of their dreams only to find out during their sophomore or junior year that the school is too expensive for their parents and they need to transfer elsewhere. Be well aware prior to accepting your 1# college choice, of all the costs associated with attending that institution. If financial aid, grants and loans still don’t put a dent in the tuition and housing costs then the school is just too expensive for you to afford. This is where parental guidance can be critical because as an 18 or 19 year old wanting to go off to college, sometimes their heart can overrule their head. Parents need to help ground their children in understanding the costs associated with higher education. Also, parents and students need to remember that sometimes grants and scholarships guaranteed during freshman year may or may not be guaranteed for the remaining 3 years. I recommend using a spreadsheet or a white board and plotting out all the pros and cons of your top choices. Again, remember to include not only fit, but finances and hopefully the best college for you will easily be identified.
Good luck!

Tam Warner MintonConsultantCollege Adventures


Ah, decision time. Many times students know what their first choice is and if they get in, that is where they go. For others, many factors enter into the equation. Finances are very important. Which colleges were more generous with grant money or scholarships? Do you prefer an urban, suburban, or rural environment? What do your parents think? What does your college consultant advise? What have current students at the colleges said about their respective colleges? Talk to alums, what do they have to say? Which college has the program you believe you would enjoy most? You may need to visit again. Deciding on a college should not be rushed, you have until May 1st to decide!

Karen Ekman-BaurDirector of College CounselingLeysin American School

Choosing Among Acceptances

Well, if you chose your schools carefully before applying, you would be happy to be accepted and go to any one of them. Having said that, however, once you receive your acceptances, it would be worthwhile to go back over the list you made earlier about what you want from your college experience – both academically and socially, and determine which of the acceptances seems to really be the best fit. If you haven’t visited the schools before (or even if you have), a visit to the institutions to which you have been accepted could help you make up your mind. Finally, depending on family finances, the amount of financial support you would receive from one school compared to another could be a deciding factor.

Helen H. ChoiOwnerAdmissions 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!

Laura O’Brien GatzionisFounderEducational Advisory Services

The Choice

First of all–congratulations! If possible, visit all the colleges now as an accepted student. You will have a different perspective now that you have been admitted. Look at the required financial commitment for each school and compare and contrast the packages–make sure you are comparing apples to apples and not to oranges.

Kayla McCormick

Pros and Cons list

Once accepted to a college it can be difficult to decide which one to attend. I recommend making a pros and cons list for each, or even just making a comparitive list including such things as cost, class size, city size, majors offered, etc. Then think of which issues are most important to you and give them a point value, such as 1 is not very important and 4 is very important. When you are done going through the list, add up the numbers and see which school meets your needs best on paper. Although the college may look good on paper, you ultimately need to reflect and see which school you would be most comfortable at. If you had not taken a campus tour, I would highly recommend doing that before making a decision.

Jill KaratkewiczCounselorEast Hampton High School

Finances & Fit

There are several factors that can play in to making the decision about which college to attend. If you have multiple options on the table, look at each from the financial perspective to start. With the help of your parents, decide if any of the financial aid packages make any of your schools out of reach. Once you have a list of schools that are financially reasonable, you could try to compare the schools based on a number of factors – location, size, strength of academics/intended major, extracurricular opportunities, etc. If you have not yet visited the schools, this is an absolute must! Being on campus may be the greatest tool to help you solidify your decision. And if you have been on campus for tour or open house, consider going back again – either for an “accepted students day” or even an overnight visit.

Tyler BurtonPresident Burton College Tours

Fit has three components.

Congratulations! Your hard work has paid off and now you have a choice in schools. There are three components of fit for you and your family to review, academic, social and financial fit. If you were awarded a financial aid package then please begin with financial fit first. If one school is going to cost $20,000 a year less then you should look very hard at finding elements of fit that will add up to both savings and happiness. Warning, make sure that the financial aid package is a 4 year guarantee provided that your GPA and EFC stay where they belong. This will require a conversation with the financial aid office. Please remember to be polite and ask for their help in reviewing your package.

Now it is time to look at Academic and social fit. The best way to determine these fits is by revisiting campus and requesting an overnight in the dorms. Make sure to attend some classes in an academic area of interest. Try to attend more than one class and request a meeting with a professor who is also an academic advisor.

Bill PrudenHead of Upper School, College CounselorRavenscroft School

It is all about the fit

Once the schools have made their decisions it is up to you. If you have done things right all the places that accepted you should fit your basic profile, offering the type of college experience you seek as well as the programs that serve your needs. Now you need to determine which place is the best fit, the most comfortable, the place where you will grow the most and be best able to maximize your ambitions. Too, you need to take a hard look at the financial side of things. College can be expensive and you want to spend your resources wisely. If graduate or professional school are in your future then you do not want to spend it all now. Ultimately how it “feels” can be the key. For all the things that can go on a “pros” and “cons” list, a gut feeling can go a long way towards helping make the final choice.

Liam DunfeyChief Operating OfficerUniversity Advisors


I empower students to set-up a spreadsheet of the pros and cons of each school based on their campus visits and what they’ve read about online. This takes into account the qualitative and quantitative components to make an informed decision.

Kim GlenchurEducational ConsultantCollegesGPS

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.

王文君 June ScortinoPresidentIVY Counselors Network

comparision sheet

you may visit the colleges and stay over night one more time
compare the financial aid package
select the right school based on your selection process

Ellen [email protected]OwnerEllen 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 AveryCertified Educational PlannerAvery 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 MilneOwnerMilne 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.

Bill PrudenHead of Upper School, College CounselorRavenscroft School

It is all about the fit

Once the schools have made their decisions it is up to you. If you have done things right all the places that accepted you should fit your basic profile, offering the type of college experience you seek as well as the programs that serve your needs. Now you need to determine which place is the best fit, the most comfortable, the place where you will grow the most and be best able to maximize your ambitions. Too, you need to take a hard look at the financial side of things. College can be expensive and you want to spend your resources wisely. If graduate or professional school are in your future then you do not want to spend it all now. Ultimately how it “feels” can be the key. tielt hwod eosn it feel for all the “pros” and “cons” list, a gut feeling can go a long way towards helping make the final choice.

Helen Cella

Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

Compare the programs that interest you and the cost of attendance

Yolanda SpivaExecutive DirectorProject 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.