Make your final college decision

How to finally decide on a college once you have acceptance letters in hand

Make your final college decision

College acceptance dates had passed and Hannah Kinskey found herself with two of her top choices, she was delighted. But as spring rolled around and her friends were all mailing in deposits, Hannah’s happiness turned to anxiety. Each day, she grew more and more unable to decide which school to choose.

She had weeded out many of her deciding factors months ago. Both schools were in good locations and had sprawling, rural campuses. Both offered strong academic programs, a good selection of sports and activities, and were comparable in price. That left Hannah in gridlock. One day she’d decide on one, then a few days later, she was sure she should pick the other.

Sound familiar? If so, first congratulate yourself that college acceptance dates have passed and you’ve been accepted to two strong colleges. Then relax, take a step back, and seek a fresh look at the situation.

Try to get personal

Since you’ve probably considered the more pressing factors prior to the college acceptance date, your final decision might rest on personal choice. Assuming you’ve already had the official tour, revisit the school for a more informal impression.

“Try to go beyond what is published in their brochure, Web site or on their official tour,” offers Chris Lydon, dean of admissions at Providence College ( “Explore the campus on your own; visit the areas you didn’t see on the tour. Talk to students, visit the library, eat in the café, seek out faculty in your major.”

Pick up a copy of the newspaper, read postings and bulletin boards and observe the students. Strike up a conversation with any of the students or faculty, yet take care not to let one person sway you in a particular direction. Instead, seek out a variety of people and consider the overall tone of their responses.


Consider extracurriculars

Though you’re heading off to college for an education, don’t feel guilty if it’s nonacademic issues that are keeping you up at night. Many students are torn by where their friends are heading, what activities are offered or other nonacademic issues. If that’s what holding you back, spend some time making an honest assessment of how important these issues are to you.

“Factor in your personal priorities,” urges Lydon. “For example, you’ve always been active in drama. One school offers an active drama club; the other school’s program is less active. How happy will you be doing one production a year versus multiple productions? Or if you’re torn by where a set of good friends are going, ask yourself if you’re ready to move on, or do you really want to stay with these friends?”


Face parental pressure

Parental pressure can be a roadblock when you lean toward one school, but Mom and Dad hope you choose the other.

A bit of research may be all that’s required to break that barrier. “Gather information from the school that you’re in favor of, then sit down at the kitchen table with your parents and use that information to convince them that the school you’re leaning toward is the right one for you,” says Lydon.

Calmly presenting them with researched facts and information may bring them over to your side, as well as impress them with your motivation.


Conquer those nerves

Dragging your feet at making that final commitment might just be a bad case of nerves—understandable when you’re making a major decision! One way to get past that is to collect your thoughts on paper.

“Try to overcome nervousness by logically weighing the pros and cons of each school. Compose a written list. This way, the information will be clearly laid out, and you can visually compare the two schools,” suggests Ann K. Masterman, admission counselor at the University of Miami (

Still nervous? Remember that nothing is cast in stone. You can always transfer if you’re unhappy. Just reminding yourself of that option might ease your mind and enable you to come to a decision.


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