The emails and fat envelopes are coming in. You’re getting into colleges! Maybe even all of the ones you applied to! First… congratulations! It’s a big personal validation to get that “YES WE WANT YOU!” and we want you to savor it. You might be tempted to jump on the first acceptance, or the first couple of acceptances you receive. But what’s our best advice? How do you smartly choose the best college acceptance offer for you?
A lot of your friends might have already accepted an early decision or early action offer. Your family might be chomping at the bit for you to make a decision. Above all, we know you’re stressed and you just want this process to be over and to move on into your future plans. We get it.
But our first and best smart college decision step: Take all the time you’re allowed. Most colleges don’t require an answer to offers before May 1. We believe you should use that time to your advantage. Visit the schools again, either on their admitted student campus visit days or another time. Find current students in the programs you’ve been accepted into and ask them how things are going, and if they’d choose the same program and school again. Read and research. Look up hashtags on Instagram. Give yourself time to dream and ponder your future. You’re allowed to do this. We give you permission.
While you’re dreaming and pondering, you also need to be practical. You might have noticed that your financial aid letters didn’t come immediately with your acceptances. Most colleges and universities keep those divisions separate, and it can take some time to weigh your need and merit against other applicants.
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So while the acceptance letters are coming in, wait for your full financial aid picture from the schools as well. When looking at your acceptance offers, you need to look at the total cost of attendance (COA) for each school, factor in your financial aid offers (including loans), and then other expenses. For example, your travel costs from one school over another for four years could add up!
Also, another secret: Is one school looking like The One, but their financial aid offer wasn’t up to par with the competitors? Call that financial aid office and discuss your other schools and their awards. There is, sometimes, “wiggle room.” For the most sought-after students, colleges and universities will work with you, if they can.
Go Where You’re Wanted
Is one school sending you almost daily reminders that you’ve been accepted, with color postcards and books and emails? And did another just sent a basic “yes, you’re in” email and you haven’t heard from them since? Don’t think this is just about wanting your money on campus (even though, yes, that’s definitely a factor). Some schools rank accepted students, just like you’ve ranked your choices. They want not only the best and the brightest students, but the students that “fit” their concept of a student body. If you’re getting “wooed” by a school, you’re one of those “it” people.
Schools spend a good amount of money courting the students they want. Take the attention you’re getting into consideration when looking at your acceptance letters. Therefore, you should go where you are wanted.