When I start working with students embarking on the road to college, they often have one big fear: â€śWhat if I donâ€™t get in anywhere?â€ť
They rarely believe me when I tell them the real question is going to end up being: â€śWhich of these admission offers should I accept?â€ť
However, thatâ€™s exactly the question many seniors are pondering right now. May 1 is the deadline to accept an offer of enrollment. So if youâ€™ve been fortunate enough to be accepted by more than one great school â€” and many students are â€” itâ€™s time to make that decision.
For many students, the choice is clear-cut. What if itâ€™s not? Hereâ€™s some help to guide you through the process.
Tally up the pros and cons. Yes, get out a sheet of paper â€” or sit down with your laptop or iPad â€” and create a pro-con list for each school youâ€™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 youâ€™ve gained admission, you should have a clearer idea of each schoolâ€™s costs â€” 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 youâ€™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 youâ€™ve gotten more interested in business. Look carefully at the program youâ€™ll likely enroll in.
Revisit any nearby contenders. If any of your schools are close enough to visit again, plan a quick trip â€” especially if you never visited or only did so once. While youâ€™re there, make sure you do things you didnâ€™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 â€” and they may help you focus on details that youâ€™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 youâ€™re headed in the fall? Are you leaning toward one school because you think itâ€™s the â€śrightâ€ť or â€śexpectedâ€ť choice? In the end, you need to choose the school thatâ€™s right for you â€” not the school that someone else might think you should attend, or that is more prestigious or more expensive. Trust your instincts and youâ€™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 thatâ€™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.