College Decision Time: How to Make a Final Choice


It’s almost here!  The National Candidate’s Date of May 1st is just around the corner, which means high school seniors are busy making their final decision about where to attend this fall. While some colleges may have extended their deadlines to give you more time in this unusual year, your best bet is to act as if the traditional deadline is still in place. Start to move on to the next chapter of your life: getting ready for the transformative experience that college will bring!  This week’s blog gives you some concrete advice for choosing your college home wisely (and juniors, this will be YOUR turn next year!). 

Make a list

 Think back to your original list of attributes that mattered when you were choosing where to apply and write these down. Now, add columns at the top for each of the colleges you were admitted to and add a check mark if that college meets the attribute.  If you need help, try using this format to get started:


  • Has the right location

  • Has the right size student body

  • Has your major or fields of study

  • Has the clubs or organizations you’re looking for

  • How much total financial aid has been offered

You’ll want to add a few more attributes based on the experiences you’re specifically looking to have in college, but this short list should help you start to visualize which college is standing out as having most of what you want. Once you can picture this on paper, we suggest you sleep on it to be extra confident that the one standing out is the right one for you. 
Connect with Students and/or Alumni

 Now that you’re getting closer to a final decision, it can be helpful to learn about the student experience from those actually living it.  Typically, a quick call to the admission office will get you connected to a student ambassador, or even a group of them, to engage with and ask questions.  Seniors, hopefully you’ve been doing this already but there’s still a tiny bit of time. 


Here are some questions to ask the students or alumni you get connected with. 


  • What is your favorite and least favorite aspect of campus?

  • How hard, honestly, is the workload?

  • How can I adjust to life on campus quickly so I’m able to balance all of the experiences I want to have?

  • How hard is it to connect with your faculty outside of class?


These perspectives are vital because they’ll start to let you picture both the good and bad things you’ll experience so you’ll have an accurate picture of life at that college.  And who knows? You may just make your first friend on campus!

What to do when you're tied:

 We get it, sometimes you get down to two options and JUST. CAN’T. DECIDE. You’ve identified two colleges that have everything you want, and you can see yourself truly being happy at either for four years. A good tie breaker is to compare their financial aid offers closely. Factoring in how much less you’ll owe after graduation, or which college gave you more generous grants, can help you use affordability as a determinant since it’s unlikely the aid will be exactly even.


If the aid is very comparable, you may want to consider how easy it is to access funding for things like conducting your own research or studying abroad. These funding types aren’t financial aid, but they are a testament to the value offered by the college. They also have the potential to save you money while enjoying more experiences. 


By now, you should be feeling pretty confident that you’ve slept on it, crossed your T’s and dotted your I’s, and made a sound financial decision (the first of many for you!) and you’re ready to say yes to “The One.”  Congratulations!  It’s been a long road to get here, and you can take pride in wherever you’re going because it’s now YOUR college.  Now, don’t forget to actually submit that deposit….deadlines still do matter! 😉

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