After the initial thrill of acceptance, choosing a college can be a daunting task, especially if many of your friends and classmates have already committed to one. If you’re weighing your options before the standard May 1 deadline, know that it’s okay to be unsure about your future plans. In fact, not having a dream school in mind can help you make a wiser choice about personal fit and overall price. You can use your remaining time to conduct more research on your schools of choice and consider the overall quality of education and student experience, as well as cost and financial aid packages.
Before you send in your deposit, here are a few steps to guide you toward your ultimate college decision.
Do some research on your opportunities
Does this college offer study abroad in over 50 countries? Does that one guarantee paid internships or a chance to work with leading professors? Maybe a certain school isn’t your first choice, but it boasts an excellent Agricultural or Engineering program (or whatever you’re interested in studying). Decide what you prioritize in an education and choose the option that will enable you to fulfill your goals to the fullest extent.
Many colleges and universities allow prospective students to email class representatives directly or talk to them through Skype or a video call. Take advantage of this opportunity to ask current students questions about campus life that can’t be answered through a college guidebook or the school website. Their responses may shape your decision by allowing you to better visualize yourself as a part of the student body.
Attend accepted students day or visit the campus
If possible, visit the college in person, even if you’ve been there before. Seeing it through fresh eyes and meeting prospective classmates is the closest you’ll come to the experience of attending, and you may learn valuable next information that wasn’t covered on previous tours or promotional materials. Some schools even allow you to spend the night to meet current students and get a better feel for life on campus.
Consider your financial aid packages
With the student debt crisis ballooning and tuition rates rising year by year, you’ll need to make sure that you have a viable college option you can afford. Financial aid and scholarships, whether awarded by the school or outside organizations, can enable you to consider schools you otherwise might not be able to attend and can prove a tipping point between two schools of similar caliber. You may also take advantage of an offer from one school to request an increase in aid from another. Ideally, your perfect college should not only be a match for you academically but financially as well. You shouldn’t break the bank in the process.
Related: Find scholarships on CollegeXpress
Don’t wait for the waitlist
Being waitlisted by a top-choice school is undeniably frustrating, and the waiting game it entails is the college equivalent of purgatory. If you feel certain that this school is your first choice, consider sending a letter of interest and your updated grades. If the admission counselor is receptive, a second visit to campus may also be helpful. Then pick a second choice to commit to before the deadline. Even students who are accepted must often wait until May or June to hear back from the admission office, and you still need somewhere to fall back on if your dream school doesn’t work out.
Go with your gut
If all else fails, choose the college that feels right for you. There’s no single school out there that’s a perfect fit, but if you’re drawn toward one campus in particular, it’s probably a sign that you’ll be happy there. If you still can’t pick, don’t worry about ending up at the most prestigious school or the one that your family is pushing you to attend. Most students end up loving wherever they go, regardless of whether or not it was their first choice.
Don’t forget to actually send in your deposit—within a couple of days of the deadline, of course.