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Acceptances are in, Now you Must Choose

College decisions are out. Finally! While this year has been really hard on some students, the good news is students still have choices to make when it comes to deciding their next step. And choice is always a good thing! I tell my students that it is the best problem to have.

 

While it can often be confusing to decide which college is best, going through this decision-making process is an important one. You have until May 1 to make your final decision, so use this month wisely!

 

Here are some tips to help you find the best fit for you:

 

–  Visit every school that you are considering if you can. Many schools will host admitted-student events that can span a few hours or a weekend. Try to attend these sessions, as the school has planned it to give you a better glimpse into the campus. You may be able to sit in on classes, sleepover in a dorm, eat lunch with current students and talk to professors. And when you go, come armed with all your questions and concerns. No one is going to take back an offer because you asked a tough question. If you have doubts, don’t hesitate to share them. Visiting is important because you will also get to meet future classmates and friends. And most importantly when you visit, pay attention to your instincts.

 

–  Look through the course catalog. Now that you are in, you should really dive into what your academic experience is going to be. Check out the classes you will be required to take, as well as other courses you might take out of interest. Look at the size of classes and your ability to interact with faculty. Try to gauge if classes are interactive and discussion-based or lecture-based. And you absolutely want to consider the ease with which you can enroll in courses. Students at the larger public schools find that in the first two years, getting their desired courses can be challenging. Students at smaller schools have the option of trying out courses before committing for the term.

 

– Explore student life. While academics are important, you have to also consider what life will look like outside of the classroom. If you plan to get involved in specific activities, check out their availability now. If sororities or fraternities are a priority for you, find out what role they play on each campus. If you absolutely want to continue playing a sport — either intramural or intercollegiate — check out the offerings. If you cannot imagine your life without school spirit, look at what types of opportunities the school provides. These extracurricular pursuits are more than fun and games. These are opportunities where you will get to engage with others, work on teams, improve your leadership, and potentially have experiences that future employers will review.

 

–  Money matters. While your parents may be ready to pay for tuition wherever you go or you have gotten scholarships or loans to cover your costs, money still matters. College is an investment and you want to spend wisely. Look at all your financial aid offers. Consider how long you should plan to spend at schools. Not everyone graduates in four years; in fact, five years is what we tell our families to plan for if they are considering the University of California or California State University schools. That extra year includes another year of tuition and housing, and it also means a year of lost income. When you factor everything in, the cost of a public school often is not significantly less than that of a private school. And remember that loans are not free money. You have to pay them back, with interest. You don’t want to stress out about money while you are in school, so think carefully.

 

You can create lists of pros and cons. You can ask everyone you know to weigh in on the decision. You can even flip a coin. But at the end of the day you’ll have to pick the school that felt the best — the one where you feel you can be most successful and happy, where you connected with the staff and your future classmates, where you got excited about the opportunities and cannot wait to start, where you feel you’ll be best prepared for the future.

 

In one short month, your admissions journey will be over. But then the real fun can begin.

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