For students preparing to begin their post-secondary studies, April signals the final stage of the college admissions process: selecting the college they will attend in September. By now, most schools have notified applicants of their admissions status, and prospective students must accept or decline their offers by May 1.
After enduring many months of anxiety – deciding where to apply and to which programs, working hard on applications and essays, and waiting to hear back from admissions offices – it can be hard for students to finally choose the college they want to attend, especially if they received numerous offers. Here are four considerations we encourage every applicant to keep in mind when making this important decision:
1. Whenever possible, visit any school you are seriously considering attending.
Most colleges give prospective students the opportunity to tour their campus before making a decision. If you are able to take advantage of this opportunity, you should. It is the best way to get a sense of what life will be like on campus, especially if you did not see the school before receiving an offer of admission.
2. Know that offers of financial aid may be negotiable.
If you applied for financial aid at your dream college, and you were accepted but were offered less financial assistance than what you need to attend, do not lose hope. You may be able to appeal the college’s funding decision. Contact the school to ask about the process for an appeal (they will usually require additional information from you) and ask for a financial aid package that will make it possible for you to accept their offer. They may not be able to offer more aid, but it is always worth asking.
3. Try to make waitlists work to your advantage.
If you were wait-listed by your dream school, write to the school to express your continued interest in attending in order to maintain your place on their waitlist. In the meantime, you should accept an offer elsewhere so that you have a place secured for September. If your top school pulls you off of the waitlist and offers you admission, it is okay to accept their offer and to notify the other school, from which you previously accepted an offer, that you are no longer planning to attend. In fact, colleges expect that a portion of their freshmen class will “melt” away as they are accepted into schools at which they were previously waitlisted. You should not feel guilty about accepting an offer from a school you really want to go, even if it means withdrawing your acceptance from another college.
4. Remember that reputation is not all that matters.
Being accepted into a college with a great reputation definitely feels good, but it should not be the reason you accept an offer of admission. It’s equally – if not more – important to consider how you feel on campus. Your decision will dictate where you live for the next four years, and feeling like a college is a good fit for you is incredibly important. Think about how you feel when you meet someone for the first time: in most cases, you can tell whether or not you like them fairly quickly. You will probably feel the same way when interacting with a college for the first time, and it is important to honour those feelings.
When deciding where to continue your education, I encourage you to pay particular attention to the last point above. It is hard to underestimate the value that a sense of belonging will add to your college experience, and this is something that only your gut instinct can tell you. In my many years as a college admissions counselor, I have worked with several students who were disappointed about not being accepted into their top choice. However, this often works out for the best, because colleges are generally adept at knowing which type of students will have the most positive overall experience on their campus.
Each school has a unique campus culture, and students typically perform best when they feel like they fit in. You have worked hard to get to this point, and are so close to reaching the goal you have been striving towards since you started high school. Do yourself a favour by selecting the college that you believe is best suited to you, your interests and your values. You are more likely to find yourself studying alongside peers you can relate to, and that sense of belonging will make all the difference in your college experience.