The Deciding Factor

Written by Lisa Bleich

I asked my seniors on what was their deciding factor in picking their college.

I received varying answers, clear on the deciding factor they individually had. However, one of them bemoaned, “I don’t know where to go!”. Then they added, “I can see myself at both schools.”

As May 1st quickly approaches, I have been meeting with students. I was helping 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 deciding factor is not so clear-cut. 

In some cases the decision is muddied because a student has been waitlisted at his first choice. Meanwhile for others, the financial reality has hit home. Therefore it is important to look carefully at the numbers. Many of them need to 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’s Deciding Factor

Hugh* had applied to twenty-two colleges. The result is that come April, he had numerous colleges from which to choose. Hugh wanted to be a doctor. Therefore, he applied to several accelerated medical school programs as well as numerous elite institutions. 

He was thrilled when he received an acceptance from Amherst College. Subsequently, he 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’s Choice of 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. She did this by attending admitted students day, sitting in on classes and talking with current students. 

Molly loved many things about each of the schools, but she kept coming back to how she felt when she was at Michigan. Because at Michigan, she felt as if she was home. 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.

What College Did Zach Choose?

Zach was deciding between The University of Pennsylvania and Washington University in St. Louis. He had applied to Penn as an early decision the previous fall. But he had been deferred to regular decision.  After his deferral, he had the opportunity to take a step back. In turn, he learned to rethink the other schools on his list. Because of this, he was able to 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. At that moment, he 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’s Deciding Criteria

Veema* was deciding between SUNY Purchase, Allegheny College, and Susquehanna College. She had received good merit money at Allegheny and Susquehanna. Alternatively. 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 had to make her decision, I convinced her to go visit Susquehanna to see for herself.  After that visit, she changed her mind. As a result, she matriculated at Susquehanna because it had everything she wanted and was closer to home.

Dan’s College of Choice

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. On the other hand, Dan wanted to go to UCLA because he loved the vibe. Ultimately, he 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.

All in all, what is the deciding factor?

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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