You spend years preparing for college and months completing applications.

And during that time your main concern is: will I get in anywhere? Chances are you’re not worrying about what you’ll do if you get admitted to a bunch of terrific schools. But receiving offers of admission from numerous colleges can be quite the predicament—a good predicament to be sure, but a predicament nonetheless.

So, how do you choose? A first step is to seek advice from people who’ve faced the same challenge: Students who were overwhelmed by options, analyzed each one and ultimately made the best decision for them.

Here, three college students and recent grads who had to choose among several schools describe how they thought through their decision.

Best Financial Offer

Alex Tran was offered a scholarship by every school where she was accepted: University of California Los Angeles, University of California San Diego, California State University Fullerton, California State University Long Beach, and San Francisco State University. Ultimately, she chose the school that made the most financial sense: Cal State Long Beach.

“I did not have any assistance from family, so it was the best decision for me in terms of affordability and being able to sustain my lifestyle,” she explains. “Long Beach was close to home, and I got money back for going to school,” she says, referring to the fact that she actually received more money in financial aid and scholarships than she needed for tuition and basic living costs. She used the surplus on additional expenses related to her time at college she otherwise would not have been able to cover. At the other schools where she was accepted, she would have either broken even financially or had to take out student loans to attend. She’s confident she made the right decision.

Most Flexible Campus

Jamie Bonnema applied to several schools near Chicago and was accepted to Illinois State University, Roosevelt University, St. Xavier University, University of Illinois at Chicago, and DePaul University. At first, choosing among them was difficult, she says. Each one offered something unique that she liked. Ultimately, she chose DePaul University because she could take classes at both its downtown location and at its more traditional campus in Lincoln Park.

“I knew I wanted to be in the city, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in the city center all of the time,” Bonnema explains. “I liked that I could still be in the excitement of the city, but go home and sleep in what felt like more of a neighborhood or traditional college campus. I essentially got the best of both worlds,” she says of her college experience.

Checking Every Box

Elisabeth O’Neill received six acceptance letters, including four from her top choice schools: Fordham University, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Massachusetts Lowell, and Emerson College. While she liked elements of each school, she realized after some thought that only Fordham checked all four of her college nice-to-haves: an easy commute, a large communications program, a good reputation and a New York City location.

While creating her college list, O’Neill, a New York resident, wasn’t dead set on staying in the city for college, but once she realized that commuting to Fordham’s Lincoln Center would reduce her overall cost to nearly half of what it would be if she paid room and board, New York became a major draw. Because Fordham checked all the boxes and was affordable, the choice became obvious.

Ultimately, there’s no formula for deciding where to enroll in college. The simplest and best approach is to focus on what matters most to you and then choose accordingly—even if that’s easier said than done.

Applying to college? We can help.
Start Here