When I start working with students embarking on the road to college, they often have one big fear: “What if I don’t get in anywhere?”
They rarely believe me when I tell them the real question is going to end up being: “Which of these admission offers should I accept?”
However, that’s exactly the question many seniors are pondering right now. May 1 is the deadline to accept an offer of enrollment. So if you’ve been fortunate enough to be accepted by more than one great school — and many students are — it’s time to make that decision.
For many students, the choice is clear-cut. What if it’s not? Here’s some help to guide you through the process.
Tally up the pros and cons. Yes, get out a sheet of paper — or sit down with your laptop or iPad — and create a pro-con list for each school you’re considering. Seeing the advantages and disadvantages in black and white often makes the decision crystal clear.
Compare financial aid packages. The cost of college may have seemed very abstract during the application process, but now that you’ve gained admission, you should have a clearer idea of each school’s costs — and the amount of financial aid and scholarships you can expect from each. So crunch the numbers. Maybe that private school will end up costing the same as that public university thanks to the aid you qualify for. Or maybe the lower tuition of the public school makes it an irresistible bargain. Think beyond just the first year, too. Try to estimate your total debt by the time you’ll get your degree. Would you rather end up with $25,000 or $100,000 in student loans?
Reconsider your intended major. You may have applied to a school with a great engineering school because you wanted to pursue electrical engineering. But in the past few months, maybe you’ve gotten more interested in business. Look carefully at the program you’ll likely enroll in.
Revisit any nearby contenders. If any of your schools are close enough to visit again, plan a quick trip — especially if you never visited or only did so once. While you’re there, make sure you do things you didn’t do on previous visits: Check out student hangouts, eat in a dorm or talk to some current students. Sometimes, just being on campus will make the decision for you.
Consult your parents. The choice must ultimately be your decision. But remember, your parents probably know you better than anyone — and they may help you focus on details that you’re overlooking.
Go with your gut. When all else fails, go to a quiet place and just think about your choices. Can you really see yourself on a certain campus? How do you feel when you tell friends and family where you’re headed in the fall? Are you leaning toward one school because you think it’s the “right” or “expected” choice? In the end, you need to choose the school that’s right for you — not the school that someone else might think you should attend, or that is more prestigious or more expensive. Trust your instincts and you’ll end up in the right place.
Donna Spann is CEO of Capstone College and Career Advising in Tyler. A college adviser for 11 years, Donna leads a team of professionals who take a personal approach to advising that helps students navigate through career and college exploration, admissions, financial aid, and find the college that’s right for them. Have a question for Donna? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. You just may see your question answered in a future column.