52 Weeks to College: Week 38 -- I Got In! How Do I Decide Where to Go?

Decision season. And the happiest of news has come to you. You got in! Even better, you got in to more than one college. What college will be your alma mater? That is your decision now. It is an important one, but it is not an easy one. This week we give you some ideas for how to evaluate your offers of admission and make your decision.

Week 38 To-Dos

Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary. 
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.  

This Week 

  • Stay on top of school work -- senioritis often sets in right about now. Remember that all offers of admission are conditioned are your successful completion of high school!
  • Begin evaluating your choices for college.
  • Schedule/plan your post-acceptance visits.

Tips & Tricks

1. Evaluate your offers of admission with "fit" in mind.

Which of the colleges that have offered you admission is the best fit for you? Which meets your criteria the best? Where will you thrive? One decision making strategy that works well for many is to "chart it out." It is a strategy that forces you to take a step back and really evaluate what you want and what they offer. Click here for a how-to guide to using this strategy. You have until April 29th, then you are probably suffering from the decision paralysis induced by a case of perfectionism.  You are worried about making the right decision, when you should be focused on making a good decision.  As is often the case in life, there may not be one right decision here.  So you have to accept that and focus on making a good decision.  On April 29th, sit down and do the chart one last time, review it with a trusted advisor, and then accept the college that is the winner, resting easy that you've made a thoughtfully considered, well reasoned, GOOD decision!! 

2. Evaluate your offers of admission with "affordability" in mind.

Once you receive your financial aid award letter, you can evaluate how your offers of admission stack up in terms of affordability. Don't just think about whether you can afford to attend for the first year; think about whether you can afford to attend for as long as it will take you to graduate. Be sure and read the fine print of your award letter to determine whether your financial aid will be renewable each year you are in college and what, if any, conditions there are regarding renewal of your financial aid award after the first year. Once you have all the information, sit down with your parents and determine whether you can really afford to attend each college where you have been admitted. Being stressed about money is not conducive to having a great experience at college, so be realistic in your evaluation. 

3. Be alert to being overinfluenced by others as you make your decisions.

By others, we mean anyone but you -- parents, teachers, friends, random strangers, heroes, U.S. News ranking staff, the great college recruiter. All of these people may mean well and all of these people may have important input, but at the end of the day, this is your decision. Be a grown-up and make the decision informed by, but not determined by, the counsel of others.

About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can find more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley 2013), and follow them on Twitter and Facebook

About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.