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The waiting is over. Admission decisions have been made. And some very happy students now have the enviable problem of deciding which college they want to attend.
From now until the May 1 notification deadline, the tables are turned as admission officers try to win over newly admitted students. There will be flattering letters, phone calls and invitations to fun-filled programs designed to get prospective fresh-men excited about attending their school.
Remember that these programs will paint the school in the best light. Since you want to learn everything you can before making a final decision, it’s a good idea to look beyond the nice receptions and speeches. Some students skip these events, preferring to see the college on a more typical day. Others have been clear about their first choice school from the start and know where they want to be.
Ideally, you’ll be able to visit the colleges on your final list, walk across each campus and eat lunch in the dining hall and see if you can picture yourself at this school next year. Many colleges, however, still have strict restrictions on campus visits, so be sure to check the school policy before planning a trip. If the campus is closed to visitors, you will have to use virtual visits and conversations to get a better feel for each school. If they are allowing in-person visits, set up a visit time well in advance of your trip.
If you can visit, spend some time in the student union or library talking with students about the college. It’s better to find out now exactly how hard it is to get into popular classes, or that everyone goes home on weekends, or that you’ll have no social life if you don’t join a fraternity. This is also the time to sit in on a couple of classes and talk to students in your major.
If you’ve grown up in Los Angeles and are considering a college in Chicago, you might have the admission office arrange for you to meet with a student from California, so you can find out what it’s like to adjust to long cold winters. Talk to friends who have gone off to college on the East Coast and ask how they manage being far from home. Preferences can change during senior year, and students who start their college applications thinking they want to go across the country sometimes realize later that they want to be able to easily come home for a weekend. If any students from your high school are currently attending the colleges you’re considering, get in touch and ask if they’d make the same choice today. A new website, thecolleget.com, connects high school students with current students at a wide variety of colleges. Getting as much information as possible will help you make an informed decision.
Comparing financial aid offers is another major factor in making your final decision. If attending your third choice college means you’ll graduate with little or no debt, that college might move up to first choice. Financial considerations could be especially important if you’re planning to go on to law, medical or graduate school or will be embarking on a lower-paying career right after graduation.
It may seem like a huge decision, but if you applied to colleges that are good matches, there are no wrong decisions. You should have a great experience at any of the schools that have admitted you.
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