Congratulations on your College Acceptance, Seniors! But now…how will you choose your college campus?
I love this time of the year! As high school seniors receive their last round of college acceptances, there is both a sense of “bringing in the harvest,” reaping the rewards for working hard in high school and on the college application process, and also an exciting sense of possibility and of beginning a new chapter in life. But one thing remains: How will you choose which college campus to attend? Here are a few ideas to help with that important decision.
Visit Campuses in Person if Possible
- If your schedule permits, attend the special events colleges organize for admitted students.
- If you visit without the structure of a special event, spend as much time as possible on campus and do as many of the following that make sense for you:
- Attend the information session presented by admissions, and go on an organized campus tour.
- Eat at least one meal in a dining hall.
- Either through admissions or someone you know on campus, spend a night in a dorm.
- Sit in on a class and/or talk to a professor in a subject that interests you. Ask to speak with a student within a particular department.
- Make an appointment with the financial aid office to negotiate your financial offer.
- Schedule a meeting with academic support services if you anticipate needing them, or with a coach if you want to pursue a sport, dining services if you have dietary needs or restrictions, a clergy person, diversity coordinator, leader of an important activity, or anyone else connected with something that will be important for you.
- And most important of all: Talk to as many students as possible to get the inside scoop on what campus life is really like, and on anything you’re curious about.
Additional Resources to Help you Decide
Whether you can get to campus or not, there are many things you can do from home and right now to help you develop clarity.
- Refresh your priorities: Think back to when you first began your college search. What were the priorities that helped you form that list? Are they still the same, or would you adjust them a bit now? Write down your 3 – 5 most important criteria.
- Back to basics: Review your original research. When did you last read your favorite college guidebook or website? Review whatever research resources originally helped you build your list. How about a good, old-fashioned pro and con list or even a detailed spreadsheet comparing all the aspects you care about for each college?
- Data: Do you love to crunch numbers? Use some resources to compare costs, graduation rates, retention rates, degrees awarded, and much more. Here are two sites to get you started: CollegeData and College Navigator – National Center for Education Statistics.
- Social media: I know you might not spend much time on Facebook, but join the admitted student groups for each college (make sure they are the official ones) and see who is planning to attend. Some students even find roommates that way! Also, jump onto Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok for the schools and enrolled students. There are usually many different accounts for each school, so follow admissions plus a few others that interest you.
- Virtual campus tours: Look for a link on the college website, use Campus Reels, or watch YouTube videos.
- College admissions Offices: Search for announcements for organized virtual tours and special admitted student events. (They may already be in your emails!) Contact your regional admissions representative to ask how best to experience the college virtually. See if they can connect you with a student through Zoom or FaceTime.
- College websites: Do a deep dive into curriculum requirements and co-curricular opportunities for your major or interest areas. If you’re undecided, investigate advising resources or programs for undecided students and general education requirements. Head to the student life section and learn about student organizations.
- Your network: Talk to people you know or friends of friends who have attended, and ask them the hard questions about what is worrying you or the questions you have not been able to get answered.
- Your team: Talk to your school counselor, your parents, older siblings and friends, and anyone else whose experience could provide insight.
- You: Most critically, remember that the most important determinant of your college experience is you and what you make of the opportunities on your campus. Believe it or not, you will probably have a wonderful four years at any of the schools you’ve applied to.
If you have done all these things and are still struggling to decide, you probably gathered all the information you need. It may be time to take a break from researching, talking, and thinking about it. Find some quiet time to reflect, maybe by taking a walk, shooting some baskets, doodling or journaling, so you can just listen to yourself. You might be surprised to discover that you know, deep down, exactly which campus you want to attend.
If you still feel stuck or need help with your specific situation, please contact me for a phone or Zoom session.