As you make your way to making a college decision, consider these ideas:
- Think college qualities, not college names. There are reasons you loved the colleges you applied to—the small class sizes, the classes they offered, the feel on campus. Write those qualities down, and see how each college measures up to them.
- Review your research on each college—one way or another. In a perfect world, spring of the senior year is the perfect time to visit each campus again. If that’s just not an option, take another online tour (you’d be amazed what you see the second time).
- Debrief at the end. Once you’re done with your list and your fact finding, talk with your parents about what you saw. What’s there that you like? What new questions do you have, and who can help answer those? Can you see yourself at this college?
- Seek parental input. It’s great to show some independence, but your parents/guardians know you well. Invite their input. “Do you see me as being happy there?”
- Compare the colleges you have, not the ones you wanted. Once you’ve reviewed the colleges, compare their strengths and weaknesses—but make sure you’re not thinking about the dream school that denied you. You may not find a perfect campus, but you’ll most likely find a best one. Focus on that as your goal, and you’ll be fine.
- Don’t forget your heart. You might not be able to describe what makes a college right for you, but that’s OK. You’ve done a lot of research and thinking—at this point, you can trust your heart to lead you. Your head will remember why you felt this college was the right one once you get to campus in the fall.
- Think about what makes sense now. When you applied to all of these places last fall, you likely said “If College X takes me, that’s where I ‘m going to go.” There’s no doubt you felt that way then—but was seven months ago, and your interests and way of looking at the world may have changed since then. How you felt then is a factor for sure, but how you feel now is more important—keep that in mind.
- Check finances one last time. If you have a college and it’s a little out of reach, call the admission office and the financial aid office—that’s two separate calls—and tell them so. A sincere call shows them you’re interested; not calling gives them no impression at all—and may leave you short in the wallet for no reason at all.
- Start the hunt again. If your choices really don’t thrill you, wait until May 5th or so. That’s when many colleges find they still have openings, and of course, they want to fill them. Getting financial aid might be a challenge, but you never know until you ask. The National Association for College Admission Counseling keeps an online list of college that are looking, but don’t hesitate to call any college and ask about space.
- Wait. Many colleges you’ve applied to or expressed interest in may continue to send you emails and calls, even after you make your choice. In some cases, they will offer you some kind of incentive- financial aid, better housing—to get you to change your mind. These contacts can last for a long time—in some cases, even once you start college.
If any of these offers seem tempting, proceed with caution. Your first choice college may not be perfect, but you likely know that college better than the colleges calling after May 1st to get you to go there. If you think a change makes sense, do your homework make sure you know what you’re getting into, then notify your first college you aren’t coming after all. You likely won’t get your deposit back if there was one, but you can ask.