College Acceptance Letters: How to Decide Where to Attend
March 31, 2021
College Acceptance Letters: How to Decide Where to Attend
The waiting period is over and you’ve received a handful (or more!) of college acceptance letters from the schools on your list. First of all, congratulations! This is a great problem to have—your hard work over the last few months has paid off wonderfully. Once you’ve celebrated for a couple of days, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and think about the options that lie ahead of you. When you’re equally enthusiastic about multiple schools, how do you go about picking the one that’s a perfect fit for you?
Different students look for different things out of their time in college—some prioritize academics, while others might be more focused on the social scene. You might have a preference for a big campus or a smaller one. Knowing these factors can make a genuine difference in shaping your choice and can lead to the right college that genuinely suits your aspirations. Without further ado, let’s take a look at a few of the most important criteria that you should have in mind as you navigate your college acceptance letters.
To start our list, it’s time to go back to your previous brainstorming notes and remember which academic programs at the colleges that have accepted you were behind your application in the first place. Go over your supplemental essay drafts and browse the website to check out the different majors, course offerings, and academic opportunities that each of the schools on your list offers you. Consider which options among your college acceptance letters present you with the ideal resources to support your interests and goals. For example, if you want to pursue business as a career and a few of the colleges where you’ve been admitted don’t have an undergraduate business school, you might be more swayed to choose one that does. Carefully think about where you’ll be excited to register for classes and who can best encourage your intellectual curiosity.
While it might not make too much of a difference, the location of the school you end up choosing could matter depending on what you’re looking for out of your college experience. Weather is one factor that varies across various states—schools in the northeast will obviously be way colder than Florida or Texas. If you think you prefer to attend college with warmer weather all year round, you probably shouldn’t prioritize a college in Boston. The location could also impact the type of industry you’re interested in and how much of the scene you want to delve into during your undergrad years. For example, if you want to go into politics and are looking to make those connections and find relevant internships, you might want to see which sources of your college acceptance letters are located near Washington, D.C. Similarly, if you’re hoping to break into the film scene, attending school in LA could increase your chances significantly than if you attended college in Minneapolis. Think carefully about how the city or region where each of your choices is located can benefit you.
School Type and Class Size
The institutions that have admitted you may vary in the number of students who are admitted. You may have a range of schools to pick from as you look through your acceptance emails—from larger national universities to small liberal arts colleges. Both types of colleges come with their advantages and disadvantages and you might have to draw a pros and cons list to decide what you prefer. You may prefer the lecture-style classes at many national universities and might want the state-of-the-art labs and access to top-notch equipment that many of these institutions boast. Or, you could be leaning towards smaller classes at liberal arts schools that are more discussion-based, with more chances to interact with your professors and the opportunity to know the majority of your classmates. Different students learn best differently, so it’s crucial that you weigh the pros and cons of class size and what is ideal for you. Talk to current students and look up information online to figure out what each college offers!
As an undergrad, you will be spending a lot of time on the college campus itself. So it makes sense that you prioritize the residential and social life on the various campuses of the schools you have in mind. If you had done a college tour or an overnight stay for some of the institutions that have sent you college acceptance letters, you might have a concrete idea of the different dorms, clubs, and types of students that each school offers. The chance might come to visit now—and talking to current students or professors could play a big role in your decision. If not, you can always do a virtual tour, explore the website, and check out the schools on social media. Think about whether you want a school with a big sports culture and spirit. You might want a college with a prominent Greek life. Or, you may lean towards an option that has dorms specifically for freshmen so that you feel a bigger sense of community and support when you’re taking the time to adjust. Campus life makes a big difference in your college experience, so don’t underestimate this criterion!
As you go over your college acceptance letters, remember that the next four years can be expensive and it never hurts to cut down on the investment you or your parents are making by taking advantage of financial aid and merit-based scholarships. When you get your offer letter from colleges, you also receive your aid package or scholarship information. If you applied for need-based aid, you can check to see which schools have met your demonstrated need. If you’ve got any merit scholarships, think about how excited you are to attend these colleges. Go through the total cost each of the schools amounts to per year— including the cost of housing and other factors that may come up such as insurance—alongside tuition and try and determine whether a significant portion of aid from a particular university makes a difference in which school you’re thinking about putting at the top.
Finally, as you find pros and cons for the different schools you’re choosing between, it can help to look through what current alums are up to and whether they’ve found success in your chosen field. If you know someone who’s attended one of the colleges and has followed a similar career trajectory to what you’ve got in mind, you can get in contact with them through email—or meet in person if they live nearby—and discuss how their college experience shaped them and helped them get where they are. It can also help to know the networking opportunities the schools you’re considering offer once you’re there. If there are regular panels, career fairs, and alumni events that allow you to meet past students and discuss your career options, that’s all the better. If the way a college has helped a student reach their current status matters to you, alumni networks are worth exploring further.
Don’t treat the decision of which school you’re going to attend as a light one. To the best of your ability, you should try to visit campuses, understand the opportunities, and reach out to current students at the places that have sent you college acceptance letters. Think about which factors can help determine the best academic and extracurricular environment for you and make the call accordingly. You got this!