Well, for starters, take a gander at our blog post about school echelons. This is a must read, a “pre-requisite” before we get to the advanced level of making a decision on a school to attend, which is what THIS article is all about.
We usually focus on WHY you need to max out your echelon (and with our clients, we actually help them to do just that). But now, we have a different problem: you’ve successfully maxed out your echelon, but you have more than one acceptance letter, and hence, a big choice to make. Guess what? This is “a rich man’s problem.” As stressful as things may seem, and as much as you want to make “the correct choice at all costs” do us a favor… EXHALE, there’s virtually NO WAY to screw it up from here. You’re gonna end up just fine. It’s like choosing between the window seat or the aisle seat… on an INTERNATIONAL FIRST CLASS flight. The correct answer is: “you’re in first class on an international flight, congratulations, you win at life.”
But yes, you do need to make a decision at some point. Representatives from each program are going to throw the book at you for why you should choose THEIR program. Friends and family will have opinions (surprised?). You’ll do some research on the internet, and guess what, you’ll find people with opinions there too! Shocker!
Here’s the Admissionado Survival Guide to Other People’s Opinions on Where to Attend College:
- Ignore Individual “Advocates.” None of the advice that any individual will make should count all that much. Even folks who attended a school and are advocating on its behalf. I went to Brown and I happened to have an absolutely AMAZING time. A life-altering time. But guess what, I’m sure there were some who went to Brown and thought it was just fine, and probably some who even HATED it. It’s not a great test. What if you pick the wrong guy or gal to ask?!
- Ignore the School’s Advocates. This one’s easy. Of course the school itself will do and say everything they can to sway you to choose THEIR school over their competition. You think they have YOUR best interests in mind right now? Hell no. They have a million and one reasons to convince you to say yes, but benefitting YOU isn’t one of them. Sure you can attend information sessions and all that, the point is, don’t compare notes on what people SAY. (More on this in a sec.)
- Don’t “read” stuff (Ha!). There is nothing that exists in written form that should sway you one way or another. The school’s “mightiness” should more or less be equal to ANY other school in your “echelon” (if you’ve defined your echelons correctly, or gotten any input from us). So, each school is gonna catapult you in more or less equal ways.
So what does that leave? Your gut.
Visit Your Admits And Follow Your Gut Instinct
You’ll know it when you know it. The IDEAL way to determine that is to VISIT every school within your admit pool in your top echelon. Visit them all. And spend a day or two there. Whatever you can afford, time-wise, and $-wise. Walk the campus. Take tours. Visit classes. Attend concerts. Mingle with people. And track your EMOTIONS. (Seriously, keep a journal, and write down your gut feeling as you go.)
At some point, you’ll start to feel the corners of your mouth turn UP. You’ll feel your skin sizzle. There will be an EXCITEMENT bubbling within in you. And it’ll usually clarify itself with ONE place over another. Why? Based on what? It doesn’t matter. It’s one of those elusive things. A feeling.
Trust that feeling. It’s usually something that’s happening on a subconscious level that’s detecting some kind of affinity between you and the PEOPLE around you, the environment, etc. (But mostly between you and the people.)
You’ll find yourself returning to ONE program, over and over again…
“I don’t know why, but I just WANNA go to school X over school Y.”
“I can’t explain it, but I just felt most inspired at school A versus school B.”
“Every SINGLE person I met at School Q was the coolest person on Earth, and I didn’t get a great vibe from most folks at School Z.”
Stuff like that. If it’s just ONE data point, it’s a bit too random. But if you feel something consistently, over and over, over the course of your experience there, listen to that voice.
What If You Can’t Visit A Specific Campus?
Well, even though it’s not quite as good, all that OTHER research that you can do, can also give you “a feeling” about what a school is like. Who are the people who have been reaching out to you? What have those interactions been like? Do those interactions say anything about the program? (Maybe, and again if you CAN NOT visit the school, then and only then should these be THE factors.) What about others who attended the schools? Ask them all the same questions and see how they answer them. You may (you mayyyyy) learn something. Again, only rely on these if you CAN’T VISIT A SCHOOL.
But, figure it out, and VISIT YOUR ADMITS! And then literally, “Use The Force.” It’s a more reliable tool than ANYTHING else.
And for all the parents out there, we’ve got a few additional blog posts to help you be best, most supportive super parent you can be along the way.
- The 13 Stages of the College Application (for Parents)
- Campus Tour Advice For Parents: Don’t Be “That Parent…”
- College Applications: “Too Many Cooks” In Your Child’s Kitchen
- What I Wish My Parents Knew About the College Application Process
- FAFSA Changes: A Brief Background And Action Plan For Parents
Need some help with a college application? That’s what we’re here for!