Narrowing Down Your College Options

February 15, 2024
By Leanne Soulard

One of the hardest parts of the college admissions journey is the end: the decision of where to attend next fall. Students, you probably remember the agony of choosing between two birthday parties on the same day, and parents, you probably remember standing by, trying hard not to decide for them. It’s sort of like that but the stakes are just a little higher.

At this point, you probably have several offers of admission. Congratulations! How do you feel about these schools? Are you as excited about them as you were when you hit the submit button back in the fall? We suggest that you go back and revisit the websites and any notes you took during your research. Check out specific areas of academic and student life that are important to you and update your notes with what you like and what may be missing or not so desirable. Maybe attend another information session with fresh eyes and ears. Your priorities may have shifted over the past several months and that’s okay. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is unique about this major at this college?
  • What courses will I be required to take for my major?
  • What other academic requirements will I have to fulfill?
  • Are there good student-run organizations in my areas of interest?
  • Is the career center active with students?
  • What is my cost of attendance and how does that align with my values, limitations and goals for college costs?

Once you review websites and any other information you may have gathered since applying, rank the schools to which you have been accepted and drop from consideration the schools on the bottom of the list. When you have heard from every school, repeat the process and determine your top three.

If you are still waiting on a lot of answers, do the research steps above (don’t rank yet) regardless of not knowing if you will be admitted because you will only have a short time to make your decision. This is a good time, when emotions are not high, to make a careful evaluation. When you get your answers, rank all the schools to which you have been accepted.

Try to return for a visit or make your first in-person visit to your top three schools to complete your research. As you walk around campus, ask yourself:

  • Can I picture myself here? Even on a rainy, gloomy day?
  • Do these students look like my people (you know who your people are)?
  • Is this campus lively enough for me? Too crowded?

And, keep in mind that this, like every other thing related to the college admissions journey, will be different for everyone. This isn’t a time to rush. Take your time and then make the decision when you feel ready (but before the deposit deadline, of course).

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