Accepting an offer of admission and enrolling in the school of your choice is the start of a thrilling new adventure.

It also typically comes as a welcome relief after what can be a high-pressure application process. But not everyone feels that way. What happens if you have committed to a school but find that you are no longer excited at the idea of attending? 

First of all, don’t panic. It’s normal to have the jitters after making a major commitment. Those second thoughts could be normal college anxiety, or they could indicate that the school you’ve selected isn’t the right fit for you. Below, experts weigh in on how to tell what your moments of doubt mean and what to do about them. 

Pause and Reflect

Before you make a decision to switch your acceptance to another school, take some time to explore your feelings. Emily Sowder, a high school counselor at Floyd Central High School in Indiana, explains that while nervousness or apprehension may be unsettling, these feelings are completely normal. However, if it’s something more and you think you might be making the wrong choice for yourself, look for red flags, such as a sense of dread about your decision or experiencing “a total change of pathway, such as a sudden interest in joining the military.”

“You aren’t signing a life-binding contract.”

– Caitlin Clemons

A desire to shift direction completely may be a signal that you want to abandon your current plan, so don’t rush into anything new. Instead, examine what’s pushing you away from one choice and toward another to help you understand what’s motivating you and to reach the best decision for yourself.

If you’re still unsure about what your second thoughts mean, Caitlin Clemons, a teen transition coordinator at Community Montessori in New Albany, Indiana, suggests that you ask yourself guided questions to help sort through your thoughts and emotions. 

Clemons recommends starting with the following questions: 

  • What is it about this school that makes you question your decision?
  • Has another school or program caught your eye?
  • How do you feel about leaving home right now? 

These questions are designed to help you understand the reasoning behind your doubts so that you can craft an appropriate action plan. Write out your answers and then talk about them with a trusted adult, high school counselor or friend. These people can help you figure out whether you are simply nervous about entering a new life stage or you may need to rethink your college selection. 

Get Tactical 

If, after exploring what’s behind your feelings of hesitation, you determine that you need to make a change, revisit all of your options for next year, including the school where you’ve accepted admission, other admission offers, community college or taking a gap year. Sowder recommends making a list of pros and cons for each option, a strategy that will give you a concrete way to assess your choices and identify which route appeals the most to you. 

Another key step to addressing your concerns is to gather as much information as possible from the school where you’ve enrolled. Reach out to current and former students, professors in a program of interest and the admissions office to talk through all of your concerns. Making a personal connection at the school and gaining clarification can oftentimes change your outlook. 

Sowder also suggests visiting the campus or taking a virtual tour as part of your information-gathering process. 

If you do decide to make the switch, be aware of decision-making deadlines and any financial consequences. “If you’ve already submitted your decision to a school, you might lose an enrollment payment or housing deposit if you withdraw,” Clemons notes. 

Some schools continue to accept decisions beyond the first of May, which is National Decision Day, but deadlines can vary by institution or even by program. If you’re planning to withdraw from one school in favor of another, confirm that your new school of choice is open to late acceptances. 

Remember It’s Not Forever

While accepting your offer or admission is a commitment, it’s not forever. “You aren’t signing a life-binding contract,” Clemons says. “If you do choose to go ahead with the school and find it’s not the right fit, you can always transfer to a school that you feel better connects with you next semester.”

Reminding yourself that you’re not locked in and can use your first semester as a trial period can make the decision feel less daunting.

The reality is that there are many excellent choices when it comes to what to do after high school. No matter which you choose — attending the school where you’ve committed or taking a different path — there’s no single right decision. Ultimately, the best approach is to glean as much information as possible, carefully weigh your options and do what feels best for you.

 Interviews for this article were conducted in 2020.