Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to two (or more!) solid colleges or graduate schools. Or maybe you’ve been accepted to one of your safety schools with a huge scholarship and your top-choice program with no funding. Or, you’ve been accepted to a top-tier program but you had really had your heart set on going to Harvard, which did not accept you. At least not yet.
First, stop biting your nails and take a moment to bask in your mammoth accomplishment: You applied successfully and got in!
Now, practically speaking: How do you choose which program to attend? The following criteria should help:
Criterion #1: Your Goals and Future Career Path
Certain schools cater to specific goals and careers. The point of your degree is to secure your future and it simply would not make sense if you chose a program that did not support or assist you in achieving those goals. Regarding financial aid, you need to do a little math: If the better program—the one that didn’t offer you funding—will eventually increase your earning power by more than the amount of the scholarship offered by the just-okay school, then it may be financially and academically worth it for you to choose the superior program.
Criterion #2: Educational Approach
Do you prefer seminars? Or large lectures? Do you prefer a more hands-on approach to learning? Or more theory-based? Become familiar with not just WHAT each program teaches, but HOW each one teaches it.
Criterion #3: Location, Location, Location
Would you go crazy in a small college town? Are you more of a city person? How will the urban or rural environment influence your studies? Other factors that could influence your decision include religious versus secular or liberal versus conservative. Remember, you’ll be living here for 2+ years (depending on your program)—you’ll want to be comfortable in the school and in the area surrounding it.
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