Now that the anxiety of waiting to hear back from admissions offices has passed, it may set into motion a new phase of stress and uncertainty: deciding where to enroll.
At this time, many students are weighing multiple offers of admission from great schools. If you created a balanced college list, the hope is that you have offers from a few great-fit colleges, any of which you’d be happy to attend. For many, that can be the biggest challenge — deciding which of these awesome schools is “the one.”
There are many factors to consider when deciding where to apply to college, and many of those elements should be revisited when deciding where to enroll. It’s also important to realize that student and family priorities may have changed in the months leading up to admission decisions, so a school that was once a top choice could easily end up at the bottom of a student’s list after decisions come in.
When evaluating multiple offers of admission, here are five things that students and their families should consider before making a decision about where to enroll for the fall.
1. Is This College Still My Top Choice?
This is often one of the first thoughts that comes to a student’s mind when they receive an acceptance from a top-choice college, especially after a student has already received offers of admission from other great-fit schools. Feelings about schools can change over the course of the semester and as decisions come in, that’s perfectly normal! After the initial excitement of getting into your top-choice college wears off, take a step back and weigh this offer with any others you may have received. Do you still feel the same way about that college that you did when you applied? Is there something about another school that might make it more attractive? Take some time to evaluate your feelings.
2. Financial Aid
A common concern among college-bound students and their parents is paying for college. This is why it’s very important when building college lists to consider financial fit in addition to academics, location, size, and more. When weighing multiple offers of admission, consider which college makes the most financial sense. Sure, a college may be your first choice, but if the financial aid offer is heavy in student loans, it may be smart to focus the schools that gave you better aid packages.
This is also where families can take some control. If you received a better financial aid package at a similar college, call the financial aid office of your top choice and see if they’d be willing to adjust the aid offer to match it. Sometimes colleges explicitly state they don’t negotiate financial aid, but in some cases colleges are willing to adjust the package if it means a student will definitely enroll.
3. Campus Location and Culture
The schools students apply to, while all great fits, can often be very different in size, location, and culture. Again, priorities may have changed in between the time a student submitted applications and he or she received decisions.
Take some time to reevaluate the qualities of each school and ask yourself questions like:
- Will I be comfortable living on a large campus?
- Does this smaller college offer enough activities of interest?
- Am I willing to travel a long distance every break, or should I stay closer to home to manage travel costs?
These are things that may have come up when building your college list but that you assumed you would figure out once you were accepted. Well, now’s the time! Really take time to consider your priorities and how each college, now that you’re admitted and have financial aid, meets those needs.
4. Academic Opportunities
All the colleges to which students applied should be great academic fits, but every school is unique and there are bound to be differences in certain academic offerings. Once your decisions are in, go back and look at your notes on classes, professors, research opportunities, and more. Does one college have something great that the others don’t? For example, one college might offer a co-op program, allowing you to gain real-world work experience for credit while still in college, while another has a great undergraduate research center that can allow you to work side-by-side with gifted professors. Reconsider all the academic opportunities at each college that admitted you and decide which best fits your current needs.
5. Your Instincts!
In some cases, it’s best to go with your gut. There are times when there are admissions offers that are too good to turn down, and there are other times where no matter what another school offers, it just won’t usurp your top-choice college. After considering all the other important factors like financial aid, academics, location, etc., do a gut check and make sure the college you make the reasonable decision to attend is the one your instincts are leading you to as well. This is an emotional process as much as it is a logical one, so it’s okay to consult your heart along with your head.
In the end, any of the colleges to which you were admitted should be excellent fits, so there’s little chance you’ll make a “wrong” decision. Remember, it’s not necessarily where you go to college that makes a difference but what you do with your experience. This is a very exciting and emotional time for students and parents alike. Family members should be supportive and work together to choose a college that makes the most personal and financial sense. After all is said and done, you’ve gotten through the process and made it to the other side.