The Deciding Factor

Written by Lisa Bleich

“I don’t know where to go!” bemoaned one of my current seniors.  “ I can see myself at both schools.”

As May 1st quickly approaches, I have been meeting with students to help them sort through their options to make a final decision about where to matriculate next fall.  For some, the decision is easy, but for others, the decision is not so clear-cut.  In some cases the decision is muddied because a student has been waitlisted at his first choice; and for others, the financial reality has hit home and it is important to look carefully at the numbers and see if they can go back to the schools and speak with financial aid to make it work.

Here is how five previous students decided.

Hugh* had applied to twenty-two colleges.  So come April, he had numerous colleges from which to choose.  Hugh wanted to be a doctor and had applied to several accelerated medical school programs as well as numerous elite institutions.  He was thrilled when he received an acceptance from Amherst College, but was still waitlisted at a couple of the accelerated medical school programs.  In this case, Hugh was excited to go to Amherst, but knew if he got off the waitlist his parents would want him to go to an accelerated program.  In the end, his decision was decided for him because he did not get in off the waitlist and he happily went to Amherst College.

Molly was deciding among The University of Virginia, Vanderbilt and The University of Michigan Honors program (where both of her parents had attended).  She did her due diligence re-visiting the schools, attending admitted students day, sitting in on classes and talking with current students.  She loved many things about each of the schools, but she kept coming back to how she felt when she was at Michigan.  At Michigan, she felt as if she was home and even though in her mind UVA and Vanderbilt were slightly more prestigious, she knew that she could be most comfortable at Michigan and would surely thrive.

Zach was deciding between The University of Pennsylvania and Washington University in St. Louis.  He had applied to Penn early decision the previous fall and had been deferred to regular decision.  After his deferral, he had the opportunity to take a step back and rethink the other schools on his list and think about what was the best environment for him.  When he stepped onto WashU’s campus he felt the warmth of the community surround him and knew he would fit in. But he also still loved the energy and reputation of Penn, so when he got in the following week he was torn.  Could he really give up an Ivy League education?  In the end he decided he could and went to WashU.

Veema* was deciding between SUNY Purchase, Allegheny College, and Susquehanna College.  She had received good merit money at Allegheny and Susquehanna and Purchase was within her budget.  At the onset Allegheny was her top choice as she loved the academic environment and emphasis on creativity, but when it came down to it, the distance was just too far from her house.  She had decided to go to Purchase, but had not yet visited Susquehanna.  A week before she made had to make her decision, I convinced her to go visit Susquehanna to see for herself.  After that visit, she changed her mind and matriculated at Susquehanna because it had everything she wanted and was closer to home.

Dan* had wanted to go to UNC Chapel Hill from the get go, but unfortunately he was waitlisted.  So he was deciding between UCLA (great fit) and Tulane (great scholarship).  His parents were pushing for Tulane because of the generous merit scholarship and closer distance to home, whereas Dan wanted to go to UCLA because he loved the vibe.  He ultimately convinced his parents to let him go to UCLA and he happily deposited even though UNC was still at the back of his mind.  He continued communicating with a music professor at UNC and finally during the summer, about a month after the May 1 deadline, he received an offer and he enthusiastically accepted.

So as you finalize your decision, go with your heart and if you still can’t decide, you can always toss a coin!

* Hugh’s Veema’s and Dan’s full journey is featured in Surviving the College Application Process: Case Studies to Help You Find Your Unique Angle for Success

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