Five tips to narrowing down your final college choice

Two groups of students outside large school

Tips on how to make a selection once your acceptance letters have arrived.

You’ve worked hard all through high school, and now the college acceptance letters coming in. How will you choose? Will you go with an elite name, an intimate class size, or the school that works best with your budget? Or is there another way to find the school that will best fit you?

Reach out to see how visits are handled

Colleges are handling tours differently due to the coronavirus pandemic, but many still allow you to walk around the campus with a guide. Typically, new guidelines don’t allow potential students to tour buildings, and the number of attendees in each tour group is limited to make social distancing easier. At the same time, most colleges are still offering online tours as an alternative. Offerings vary — check the college’s website for details on virtual tours and other opportunities for new students, and be sure to reach out to the admissions office for details of in-person tours before stopping by.

Make a list of questions, and then compare the answers

To effectively compare what each school has to offer you, get all of your outstanding questions answered. For example: “Are most classes taught by professors or assistants?” “Will my area of study require a senior thesis at School A vs. School B?” “Is this program competitive enough for me?”

Also consider reaching out to currently enrolled students on Facebook or striking up conversations during a campus visit. These are easy ways to get an honest insider’s look at student life, before you make your big decision.

Compare your award letters

You’ll want to review these letters carefully, preferably with an adult who’s invested in your success. To help better pinpoint the differences, there are comparison tools available, like this one from Big Future by the College Board. It is important to note which aid has to be paid back and which doesn’t, as well as the final total that it will cost for you to attend.

Envision your future

When you look beyond college graduation, what do you want for yourself? Is it a degree from a specific school, regardless of the financial debt? Is it a targeted path to a research position or grad school program that starts with your undergrad connections? Or do you envision graduating with minimal college debt, a well-rounded education, and a degree from somewhere, even if it isn’t nailed down just yet?

Balance what you want with what you can afford

The final college decision typically requires a realistic look at finances — both what’s available to you now and the debt you’ll have once you graduate — along with an evaluation of what your big goals really are.


Remember, whatever you choose, you should feel great about it. You’re off to a great start, and you’re choosing a place that will nurture and inspire even more achievements.

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