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How to Make a Great College Choice

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As you look over your college acceptances, your final decision may be obvious. But sometimes it isn't. Here are tips for making your ultimate college choice.

Choosing a college should depend on your priorities and "gut feel." When you are ready, take a deep breath, decide, and celebrate. You are going to college!

When You Get Your College Admission Decisions

Some colleges will notify you within a few weeks after you apply, especially if you apply early. Most colleges notify applicants on or about the same date, usually April 1. Some colleges send earlier "likely" letters, indicating that you are admitted if you keep up your grades. Colleges will send your financial aid packages shortly after they send your acceptance letter. You will need to commit to a college by May 1.

How to Make a Great College Choice

First of all, put your rejections in your rearview mirror. As one dean of admissions said, "It's the college's loss, not yours." Then move on to the college choices in front of you.

  • Review the factors you used when you decided where to apply. Have you changed your mind about any of them? Which college(s) meets the criteria most important to you now?
  • Eliminate colleges you really can't afford—or decide to ask for more aid (see below).
  • Visit or revisit your top-choice colleges. Most colleges offer "admitted student days" just for this purpose, but going at other times is fine. Many students report seeing a college in a whole new light after they have been accepted.
  • Talk over your choices with your parents and counselor.

From this process your final choice should become obvious, both rationally and emotionally. If you are still unsure, read on for more tips.

Dealing with College Waitlists

If you are waitlisted at your first choice, your next step is to call the admissions office to find out your status. If you are high on the waitlist, contact the admissions office to communicate your enthusiasm and present new evidence of what a wonderful student you would be at their campus. Accept your second-choice college and wait a month or so for any waitlist results.

Dealing with College Cost

If your top college did not offer you enough aid to make it affordable, you can launch an appeal for a better aid package. To bolster your appeal, work with your parents to submit new evidence, such as missing information, late-occurring changes, and/or corrections to your financial aid application. You can also submit better offers from comparable schools.

Dealing with Hard-to-Make College Decisions

  • If your favorite colleges are running neck and neck. Since academics are your highest priority in college, you could choose the college that best suits your academic goals and learning style. Other tie breakers might be college cost or factors that affect your campus experience. These include student culture, location, sports offered, and campus size.
  • If none of your accepted colleges stand out. Bear in mind that you can have a great college experience at any number of campuses. The effort you put into succeeding in college makes much more of a difference than which college you choose. So pick the college you like best, and give it all you've got.

Appealing a College Denial

Colleges rarely reverse admission decisions. But you can call the admission office and find out what their appeal procedure is. It's worth the effort if you have information that was overlooked or missing, or you noticed a significant error in your application materials.