Yet of course, there’s still plenty to be stressed about. Rejections are always difficult to process. It’s important to keep in mind that if you’re not accepted to a college, it’s not personal. In many ways, college admissions functions like a business, and often admissions officers’ focus is on what niches need to be filled at the college rather than your specific weaknesses. Even given this, rejections are painful.
However, many acceptances can also bring a different kind of pain. Having options to choose from can be exhilarating, but can bring along other forms of stress. Are you making the right choice? Can your family afford your dream school, or is the practical option better? How can you pick a school when you’re not even sure what you want yet?
These are some of the questions I considered as I weighed my options. Here are four pieces of advice that would’ve helped me a lot as I made choices:
- Consider finances first. When I had my final list of possibilities, I knew that money would be a big factor in where I went. Sometimes it can be hard to turn down your favorite school in favor of the affordable choice. But in almost every case, it is better to go cheaper than to pick up student loans. It helps to cut off the unaffordable options cleanly--scratch them off the list. Spending nights wondering if you can make it work by picking up two jobs is unproductive, and unfair to your future self if you end up choosing the expensive choice.
- Consider your area of interest. The next important step is to look at what each university is especially good at. You are likely one of two people--you either know what you want to major in or you don’t. If you know what you want to major in, first look at each school’s reputation in that department, and then take a look at the research specific faculty are doing. If you don’t know that you want to major in, then see how long each major you’re considering takes to complete. Some schools have more requirements than others, and if you think you’ll need some time to decide, it’s good to consider which schools will allow you the most leeway in making a decision.
- Consider location. There are many layers involved in where a school is located. Firstly, consider an urban vs. rural area. Perhaps you’ll be more comfortable in one or the other. Distance to home also comes into play, and the amenities in each city can be very important too. For instance, if you want to go into medicine, then consider whether or not each school is near a hospital.
- Consider campus size. In most cases, college size is a balance between small class sizes vs. variety of classes. At a smaller college, you’ll likely have fewer students per class, but also fewer classes to choose from. This can be a good criterion for choosing between the last couple schools.
Hopefully this list can be of some help. You’ve probably heard many times that in the end, you can be happy at any place you choose, but this can sometimes put even more pressure on you, because if you’ll be happy anywhere then how can you decide? Think about your decision as choosing which opportunities you’d like to emphasize in your school. These opportunities will exist everywhere, so wherever you go you’ll always have the chance to change your mind. But deciding earlier on can ease your transition. So congratulations, and good luck!
-- Joanna Slusarewicz