After colleges make their decisions, it’s time to make yours
As February gets underway, we can anticipate many important milestones: Valentine’s Day, the day after Valentine’s Day (hello, discounted candy!), President’s Day weekend, and of course…the college admission decisions that will start cropping up in mailboxes/inboxes across the country. It’s nerve-wracking, tense, and exciting all at the same time.
My own experience with this time turned out much differently than I first anticipated. For one thing, after submitting my applications I had more time to really consider what I wanted in a college. I know that this sounds very counter-intuitive, but I had loved some big universities just as much as the small colleges throughout the college search and I applied to a mix of both. Specifically, George Washington University was high on my list for its location, the Elliot School of International Affairs, and the fact that going there would mean meeting many other students whose interests were similar to mine.
By the time the fated decision letters arrived, however, I had decided that I needed to be on a smaller campus. College would already be overwhelming whether I went to the school with the largest student population or the very smallest. So even though I’d applied to several medium-to-large universities that appealed to me very much, I had a strong feeling that I would aim to end up at a small liberal arts college. I never regretted applying to that range of schools because it never meant that I would not have had great experiences there; it’s simply that sometimes we need to go through the entire process, start to finish, in order to gain clarity on what will be the best decision.
Of the schools that accepted me, I zeroed in on Bryn Mawr College, and Occidental College. Oddly enough, Oxy was one of the first schools I ever seriously considered while Bryn Mawr was literally my last tour and application. They differ greatly and yet I was equally drawn to each of them for different reasons. I did overnight visits at both schools and e-mailed with professors from departments that interested me. I hemmed and hawed. I majorly freaked out about the decision and consulted with just about anyone who would listen. As cliché as it sounds, I eventually put away the reasoned lists and comparisons and went where my heart took me.
Ultimately, I was very happy with my final choice—though honestly, I know that I would have been happy with many of the schools to which I applied. After all of the stress of applying to schools, we sometimes forget that it can also be very difficult to hold the decision-making power. Here’s what I learned:
- making pro/con lists is great—but don’t underestimate the value of that classic “gut feeling” (that’s what tipped the scales for me)
- tour guides and overnight hosts are helpful, but it’s crucial to talk to as many students as possible to get a genuine feel for the college and its student body
- food is key: try out as many eating locations on campus as possible and be sure to ask about vegetarian/vegan/kosher/allergy accommodations if that’s a factor
- clarify financial aid information
And most importantly…everyone will have an opinion and it’s definitely good to listen to the input of family, friends, teachers, guidance counselors. Listen. But then make your own decision.
How did you make your college decision? What measures were most helpful in the process? Least helpful?