You’ve finally been accepted to college — and to more than one. Congratulations!

Now it’s time to sit down and make a decision about where you will spend the next four years of your life. While the decision may feel daunting, these five suggestions can help you focus on the important questions so you can make a confident enrollment choice.

1. Take a Tour

If it’s possible to visit, or revisit, your top-choice schools, head to those campuses and see how you feel as you explore each one. Can you envision yourself on the quad among the other students? Do the people you speak with seem like future friends? Are you comfortable in the setting and would you be excited to spend more time there? 

If you’re unable to travel to your choice schools, you can still get a sense of the place with a virtual campus tour. Don’t stop at the campus, though, because what’s happening off-campus is important too. After all, your college life won’t be limited to on-campus events. If you’re traveling to colleges, take some time to explore the surrounding area. If you’re researching online, look for videos and blogs created by students to get an idea of what’s available off-campus. You may discover a breakfast spot to try, an awesome bookstore, great trails, a lake for picnicking or possible options for part-time work.

2. Factor in Finances

It’s vital to keep your budget in mind when evaluating your college options. Kenneth Woodard of Chicago Scholars recommends looking over your financial aid award letters with a professional or using an online tool to compare all of your offers. Also, your initial financial aid offer might not be the end of the story. You can always try to negotiate for more financial aid. And if you or your family have gone through financial changes since you first filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), you can appeal your offer. You may get a more generous offer, which can significantly influence where you ultimately choose to enroll.

3. Talk to Current Students About Life on Campus

Speaking with current students, alumni and instructors from schools on your list can help you make the right decision, but first you need to ask the right questions. An admissions counselor can usually put you in touch with current students who are happy to help, and you can also reach out to school alumni organizations. Carrie E.L. Thompson, director of undergraduate admissions at Clarion University, recommends checking out your choice schools’ hashtags to see what students and alumni are saying, and shooting them DMs to get more information. Some simple questions to ask: 

  • How approachable are professors? 
  • What is the social scene like?
  • What do students typically do on weekends? 
  • How easy is it to get into the classes you want?
  • What’s your relationship with your academic adviser like? 

4. Talk to Alumni About Life Post-Graduation

Michael Kawula of HelpATeen says LinkedIn® is a great resource to connect with recent graduates of schools you’re considering. He recommends reaching out and asking the alum how the school helped with career mentoring and employment opportunities. “This is something too often ignored,” he says, “but should be a big part of one’s decision process.” Another good question to ask alumni is if they feel their education was well-rounded and useful. You may be surprised by their answers, which can make or break a school you’re considering. It’s important to remember, though, that different programs and majors in each school can vary in their placement success and post-graduation assistance, so be sure to speak to someone who graduated from the same programs and majors you plan to pursue.

5. Weigh Your Options

JoBeth Evans, an instructor at the University of Arkansas and a college success coach, suggests making a direct comparison of all the options you’re considering. Instead of a traditional pros and cons list for each school, Evans recommends listing the 10 features that matter most to you in any school. Items on this list could include location, degree offerings, extracurricular activities and study-abroad opportunities. Go through each school and rate “how excited you are when you think about each item” from 1 to 10, she says. Then, you can add up the points for each school and have a sense of which one is the best fit overall. Of course, selecting your college can’t be reduced to a simple formula, but this exercise can help clarify things for you. 

Ultimately, there may not be just one right college. It’s possible that more than one school you’ve been accepted to would be a good fit. So, do your best to make the best choice for you and then relax and enjoy your summer. You’ve more than earned it.

FAFSA® is a registered trademark of the US Department of Education and is not affiliated with Discover® Student Loans. 

LinkedIn® is a registered trademark of LinkedIn Corporation and its affiliates in the United States and/or other countries.

Interviews for this article were conducted in 2020.


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