How to Decide Between Multiple College Acceptance Letters

 

Congrats – you’re in!  If you’ve got not one, but multiple college acceptances, you might be feeling overwhelmed, stressed, excited, confused, or a zillion ways when it comes to deciding where to go next year. Regardless of how you’re feeling, consider some of the following factors to help find the perfect fit for an awesome freshman year.

Visit the school again.

If at all possible, check out your top choices again in person as an admitted student. Oftentimes, universities will have special events for admitted seniors in the spring. Check with the admissions office at a college or university to see if they offer anything like this. These sessions are usually geared towards giving potential students a better look at what student life is like instead of the admissions spiel you heard back in the fall. You might have a chance to get a better look at different housing options, learn more about activities on campus, attend a class, meet faculty and other admitted students, or hear student presentations, sometimes even for an entire weekend. Even if the schools you’re deciding between don’t have sessions like this, think about trying to design your own experience to get a look at some of these factors. You want to pick a place where you feel comfortable, and visiting again and trying to see yourself as a student on campus next year is one of the best ways to do so.

If the school is too far away to visit, think about doing a “virtual tour” or “virtual visit” instead. Remember: you’ve been accepted – this school wants you to come there next year. Most admissions offices are pretty flexible when it comes to offering students any resource possible to make  your decision easier. Feel free to email faculty in department offices, or ask for a brief informative Skype or phone conversation if you have specific questions related to student life on campus. Take a closer look at online information too, including any photos or videos of freshman dorms, campus media, or video tours. This could also help you get a better sense of whether or not you could see yourself on campus. It never hurts to see if the school can put you in contact with current students regardless of whether or not you know anyone already on campus. This might get you even better answers to any questions you have about what it’s like to study, work, live, and hang out around the school.

Evaluate the school’s academic strengths and weaknesses.

One big stop on your decision checklist should be the school’s course catalogue. Take a look at what majors and programs they offer, and make sure the college or university offers classes in a subject (or subjects) you’d be interested in pursuing fairly in depth for the next four years, and that it’s a program with enough variety and interesting classes you’re interested in taking and paying for. Checking the course catalogue is one way to do this, as is talking to students currently majoring in subjects you're interested in. Otherwise, a simple Google search on top programs in your field of interest can get you pretty good results as well.

Now is also a good time to clarify things related to double majoring and minoring. If you plan to study multiple things next year, be sure the schools you’re looking at give students the option to do so, and that it’s something you can realistically do in four years.

It’s also important to look into a school’s policy for freshmen that come in undeclared. Most schools allow freshmen to spend anywhere from a semester to two years deciding what they want to major in. If you’re totally undecided, that’s okay! Just make sure you know how quickly you’ll be expected to declare.

If you’re having a tough time deciding between several final options, the strength of different academic programs can be a good factor to use when making a final choice. The classes you take will play a big role in determining how prepared you are for different internships and post-grad opportunities, so it’s important to pick a school that will give you lots of possibilities for study!

Factor in any extracurricular pros and cons.

College is about way more than just classes, though. While a strong program is important in the long term, you don’t want to be totally miserable in the meantime. Be sure to obtain information (either electronically or as part of a visit) on different activities and groups students can participate in and join. It’s also a good idea to look at what sort of programming these organizations offer. That is, see if you can get an idea of what events and activities groups regularly sponsor on campus. The Squirrel Club on campus may sound like a blast, but if they don’t meet regularly or have many activities, it’s really not a good reason to consider going to a particular school. If a club isn’t active, it’s not going to help you meet people or find a niche where you feel more comfortable on campus. Social media feeds for specific groups can be a great way to get a sense of how active a particular group is, in addition to talking to students that currently go to the college or university. You might even want to look into how easy it is to start your own club on campus!

Beyond a basic list of student organizations, it might also be helpful to ask about annual events. Many colleges and universities organize several large events throughout the year based on fun traditions or outside happenings that can be super fun to get involved with as well. Make a point to learn more about what sort of programming and events look like at schools you’re considering.

Consider the campus culture.

It’s important to pick a school you’ll truly feel comfortable at for your undergrad career. Think about more extensive factors that contribute to student life. Is the campus liberal or conservative? Is there a large Greek life presence? Is there Greek life at all? What about sports? Is the school competitive? Do people regularly go to games? How many of the students commute home every weekend? Are people from a lot of different parts of the country, or are they all from relatively the same area? Is the school in a busy city, college town, or rural area? How easy is it to get an internship or study abroad? Is this something important for your field? All of these can be answered by a visit to the campus or by asking students that currently attend the school.

If you’ve been dreaming about being in a sorority since you were twelve, how active Greek houses on campus are at a particular university might matter more than some of the other questions raised. If you’re planning to major in a language, getting the chance to study for a semester and immerse yourself in the culture might matter more. If you’re looking for lots of hands-on, real-world experience, internships become more important. Think about what you want big picture-style with your college experience, and weigh some of these factors when selecting a school.

Think about the cost.

Like it or not, cost is also a big part of what your college experience might look like. It can also be a helpful factor to use if you’re really stuck between two or more schools. If they’re about equal in other categories, cost could serve as a good push towards one over the other. Keep outside funding sources in mind as well – are you getting additional merit scholarships from one school? Would a private school give you more than a public school because of its endowment? Could you get a sports- or art-based scholarship at a particular college or university? While cost hopefully won’t be the ultimate determining reason in deciding where you end up, it’s undoubtedly an important one to consider. If you’re really attached to a school but it’s not measuring up financially, you can always approach the financial aid office for a second offer. Mentioning what one school is offering over another might help improve your original package. Don’t forget about scholarships, either!

Go with what feels right.

Pick a school you’ve been accepted at, then say to yourself, “I’m going X place.” Does it feel right? Do visions of you lounging on the quad instantly surface in your head? Or, do you feel uneasy, and think about other options floating around in the back of your mind? Trust your gut reaction. If you’ve considered all of the above things and still can’t come to a conclusion on where to head next fall, go with your gut. Sometimes, it’s the easiest way to make a decision in the end!

Wherever you go, college is an awesome experience. Next fall, you’re bound to make some great new friends, try a crazy activity or two, explore all kinds of cool fields, partake in fun traditions, and maybe even meet a campus cutie or two! Regardless of where you decide to go, college is what you make it. Congrats on getting in – now go enjoy it!