How to Pick a College When You’ve Been Accepted to Multiple Schools

Applying to college can be one of the most stressful times in a young person’s life. Not only do you have to handle large amounts of paperwork, essays and interviews, but you are also making a huge decision that will impact you for at the least next four years of your life (no pressure or anything!). You may have one dream school in mind, but plans can change. Maybe you unfortunately don’t get into your top school. Maybe other schools you initially brushed off are making competitive offers, complete with scholarship money. Maybe it’s just that you have so many choices that you can’t decide which school is right for you. Luckily, almost every collegiette has been through this process, and they have some tips to help you pick the right school for you. 

1. Consider what each school offers

When picking a college, it may seem that academics are the most important thing to consider, but surprisingly there are other factors to think about. Incoming college students need to remember that while college is a place to learn and study, they will be spending the better part of four years at this school, so it’s important to make sure the environment suits your personality. Lexi Hill, a senior at the University of South Carolina, seconds this advice.

“I remember when I was applying to colleges, I categorized every school—Greek life, sports, major, etc. That process ended up really benefiting me,” she says.

“I was lucky enough to be accepted to almost every school I applied to, so when it came time to choose which school, I knew exactly what each one offered me.”

Taking the time to identify the positives of each school can also help you see what matters most to you. And knowing what is most important to you will only make your big decision easier. 

2. But pay special attention to the big factors like cost and location

The cost of college, as frustrating as it is to talk about, can be a deal-breaker when it comes to selecting a school. Madeleine del Caño, a junior at SUNY New Paltz, experienced this firsthand.

“It was only after my eighth acceptance letter came in the mail that I realized that I didn’t have an actual idea if where I wanted to go for school,” she says.

“My top choice was Wagner College, located on Staten Island, but with its $58,615 cost of tuition, not even the scholarship I’d received was going to make it possible to attend. I ended up sitting down with my parents, making spreadsheets about the cost of tuition versus the location versus the majors offered.”

Even though it can be disappointing to see that your dream school may be out of reach, laying out the cost of the tuition can help you make the decision. If you realize only one school has all of the majors you are interested in and is located in a prime location, that can motivate you to find more scholarship opportunities or other ways to cover the cost, like work study. But if worse comes to worse, a more affordable school could be the perfect one for you. 

Related: 6 Things No One Tells You About Going to a Small College

3. Focus on what matters to you

Every person is an individual, which means you may have unique things you are looking for in a school. Maybe the most important factor for you is a school with a stellar academic reputation. Maybe you are looking for a school that has the resources to help you prepare to enter the workforce. Maybe you just want a school that offers you a fun time. Either way you are the one that knows what you are looking for!

If there is one particular quality that you are searching for in a school, don’t let anyone dissuade you from finding one that meets your requirements. Remember, you are the one that will spend the next four years there.

4. Make another visit to any schools you’re seriously considering

Many prospective students will tour colleges before applying to help narrow down the choices. But after applying, it may be worth your time to pay another visit to schools that are still on your radar. No matter how fancy or prestigious the school, what matters most is how you feel there. Carly Holmstead, a senior at the University of Guelph, seconds this.

“Picking the right college to me was all about how I felt walking on the campus. I was accepted to four schools and offered an academic scholarship to a few which made the decision a little difficult. But when I walked on Guelph’s campus I could totally picture myself there. The day I got accepted, I got so excited that I cried,” she says.

If you are able to, take the time to visit as school again, or even do an overnight with a current student. Getting a new perspective on schools can change your mind or open your eyes to new possibilities.

5. Consider the input of others

Even though you are the one that is going to college, sometimes it can be helpful to consider the input of others. Your family and friends who know you the best may pick up on different aspects of schools that are compatible with your personality and lifestyle, which can help you make your final decision. Abby Russo, a senior at The College of William and Mary, had her father help her with her decision.

“When I was choosing between colleges, my dad and I used the same system that he and my older sister had made when she was choosing between schools four years earlier," she says. 

"After we visited my top choices, we rated each school on a series of criteria like dorms, campus, location and food. It made the process of choosing a lot more fun, but it still ultimately came down to choosing the school I could see myself at the most.”

As with every major life decision, it can sometimes be helpful to hear opinions from others. But make sure in the end, it’s your opinion that you are paying the most attention to.

6. Be honest with yourself

As students apply to colleges, many will focus in on the schools with the best reputation. And while it’s important to receive a good education, you need to make sure that the school you pick is a place that you can spend the next four years growing in. Lexi agrees with this tip.

“Choose a school you think you can excel in academically, but most of all make sure you’re choosing a school that you think you can excel and grow in socially, culturally and professionally," she says. "The connections you make in college help forge the way for a bright future, so you want to make sure the organizations they offer can set you on the path to success.”

Just because a school is “the best” doesn’t mean it’s the best for you. If there is smaller, lesser known school that you feel great at, make the decision to go there. How you grow and what you gain from your education is more important that where you get your diploma from.

Related: 7 Things NOT to Consider When Deciding Where to Apply to College

In the end, choosing a school is not a life and death decision. What matters most is that you’re happy with the school you decide to attend. While you should focus on making the best choice possible, don’t stress if everything doesn’t work out perfectly. If you go to any school with a great attitude in hand, you can make it the right school for you. And if it turns out you didn’t make the right decision, remember that transferring schools is also an option. College is the time for you to enjoy yourself and grow as a person; keep that in mind when you’re making your decision.