I’ve been working with a student I’ll call C. She filed her applications on time, and come April 2nd, she found herself with several fat envelopes, financial aid packages and scholarships that kept her options open, and 29 days until the May 1st candidate reply date.
With three schools under serious consideration, C. is headed off to visit a campus or two. At this point, it’s a given that each of her top choices offers strong academics, and lots of other opportunities. It might be tempting for her to throw a dart at a map of the U.S., but I’m not encouraging it.
If this is your predicament, congratulations! If you have the opportunity, go and visit your remaining choices. Colleges welcome accepted students back to campus. Take the tour, eat the food, attend a class. When I’m on a campus, I often read bulletin boards and pick up a copy of the student newspaper. A walk around the campus on Saturday morning can give you a sense of what students were up to the night before. Are you intrigued by what you see? Do the current students seem like copies of those you went to high school with, or are they altogether different? Which environment do you prefer?
From an academic standpoint, colleges often talk about their class sizes, and accessibility of professors. Dig a little bit deeper into the curriculum. Is there a “core”? Is it rigid, or flexible? What types of classes will you be able to take as a freshman? Are the classes seminars or lectures? Does much of the junior class depart for foreign lands?
If you are also placing your name on a waitlist, it is important to put a place a deposit at ONE institution by May 1. Doing so guarantees your spot in the class, and allows the college to begin preparing for your arrival – with residence hall space, advisors, and orientation. Pay careful attention to the paperwork you submit, and be mindful of the deadline. Should your waitlist choice call for you, you may forfeit your original deposit. If you find yourself certain that you will not attend a college to which you have been offered admission, kindly let them know that you will enroll elsewhere. Someone else is anxiously hoping to turn a waitlist offer into an admit.
In the end, your final choice is often a gut decision. If you have a strong feeling, go with it. And don’t look back. You have four, maybe five years in front of you. Make the most of them.
By Whitney Bruce, who has worked in college admissions since 1996. She has served as an Senior Assistant Director of Admissions (Washington U), Application Reader (University of Michigan), Assistant Director of College Counseling (private prep school in St. Louis), and an independent college counselor. She is happy to advise you as you apply to college.