Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

College Search

Our counselors answered:

Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

Liam Dunfey
Chief Operating Officer University 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.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational 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.

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College 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-Baur
Director of College Counseling Leysin 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.

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.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft 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.

Jill Karatkewicz
Counselor East 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 Burton
President 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.

Sarah Contomichalos
Manager Educational 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 Zodda
Founder and President Zodda 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!