Making the Final Decision
After a year or more of working and worrying, it's done: you've received word from all the colleges to which you applied. All that remains in your college quest is making the final decision. Which college will you attend?
This decision may be easy for students who were accepted to their first-choice college. But for the majority of students--those whose first choice denied their application and those who never had a clear first choice--that final decision can be difficult. If you're agonizing between two or more colleges, read on for help in making that big decision with confidence.
Back to Basics
Before you look at the colleges themselves, go back to where you started--yourself. Think about what you want out of college. Have your priorities changed since you began the college search? Some students find that their preferences and goals change somewhat over the course of their college search, as they learn more about college and about themselves.
Take a few minutes to jot down the top five (or more) things you want out of your college experience. If you're feeling more ambitious, write a description of your ideal college. What do the classes look like? What kind of things do you envision yourself doing on the weekends? What interests do you plan on pursuing (academic or otherwise) while at college? The more details you can think of, the better.
Then sit back and look at what you've written. Do one or more of the colleges you're considering match your description? Is there one college that has most of the characteristics that interest you?
Dare to Compare
Every college has different strengths and weaknesses. One college might have a better reputation in your preferred major--but not the extracurricular activities you want. Another may have a strong program in your favorite extracurricular activity--but also a higher price tag. A third may seem like it has everything, except for the fact that it is much farther away from home than you're really comfortable with.
It's easy to start thinking in circles when you try to compare two or more colleges that you genuinely like. Here's one way to help get your thoughts in order.
"Spread out all the acceptance letters and financial aid offers out on the dining room table," Laurice Sommers, coordinator for college partnerships and curricular enrichment for the Los Angeles Unified School District, said. On one blank sheet of paper for each college, make two columns-"like" and "dislike" (or "pro" and "con"). Then list the positive and negative aspects of each college.
"This exercise helps students to look at the colleges objectively and provides a starting place for the family conversation," Sommers said.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. © 2008 National Association for College Admission Counseling.
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