How to Make Admissions Decisions and Choose the Perfect College

Tips on the best way to decide which college to attend.

As college decision letters start arriving, we first want to say congratulations! You’ve worked really hard to get to this point.

Now that you’re done applying, it’s time to accept an offer. Even though this process may seem straightforward, it’s important that you make a well informed decision. You may feel burnt out from senior year and the college application process, but don't lose steam just yet—take the time to make the best choice.

Here are some tips on the best way to decide which college to attend.

Don’t immediately say yes!

Before you applied to college, you ranked all of the schools to which you applied, categorizing your options by how likely you were to be accepted. Now, throw out that list. Take every acceptance you have received and give it equal weight. If you’ve been accepted to five other schools, your top choice may no longer have the same appeal, especially considering financial aid packages. It's important to take your time before making a decision because, if you change your mind later, it can become a very tricky situation.

Know how to deal with rejection

Not getting into your dream school can be very tough. But it's important to know that you do have options, such as transferring after your first year. While most admission decisions are final, some applications may be appealed for very specific and rare reasons. Remember, it's ok to feel upset about getting rejected, but focusing on the schools you did get accepted to will allow you to get excited about a new adventure.

Organize all of your deadlines

Most schools have commitment deadlines, and you certainly don’t want to accidentally reject an offer because you weren’t organized enough. We recommend using a calendar you look at often—whether it's on your phone or hanging above your desk. Pencil any deadlines, including commitment and/or deposit deadlines, into your calendar and set multiple reminders on your phone.

Check your financial aid and scholarships

If you applied for financial aid, it is time to evaluate packages from each school. Don’t put down any deposits until you know your financial aid package! If the financial aid office doesn’t yet have an offer when you receive admission, wait to hear from them. Make sure that this is an offer that makes sense for your situation. Once you submit a deposit and sign a commitment, you can be held to that contract.

Plan college visits and really get to know each school

Go to ALL of the admitted student events and interact with as many current students as possible. Visit or revisit the campuses with a fresh mind, and, this time, realize that you are just one press of a button from being a student. Pay attention to details that seem trivial, such as the meals and residence halls, because, as a student, those things will matter. Ask questions of current students such as:

  • What are your favorite things to do around campus?
  • What do you find good/bad about courses here?
  • Have you found that most students here fit a certain archetype?

If traveling to the campus often isn't possible for you, try to see if there are visual tours or videos of the campus and student life online.

Make all kinds of lists

Write down the pros and cons of each college so that you have a logical way to decide. Consider what the most important factors are for you, such as location, specific program, being around family, school size, etc. Once you have those factors set down in order of priority, sort through each school and see which ones rank high for your top priorities.

It's great to make these lists while you're visiting campuses. Even if you don’t use these lists after visiting every school, it will help you remember what you did and didn’t like while you were there. It is very easy to forget how much you liked the first school you visited when you’ve been to four more since then. Writing down what you do and don’t enjoy will avoid this.

Ask your parents

Before applying, it is recommended that you not ask for too much guidance from your parents. Now, however, is the time to start asking for help. Because they usually are the ones who pay attention to the small details in your life, they likely know what might bother you about a particular school. Of course, after all your visits are done, the decision is ultimately yours. But it may be valuable to at least consider their opinion, especially if they say something that you agree with.

Know how to handle waitlists

If your top choice school waitlisted you, it’s time to start working on getting accepted. Only put your name down for a waitlist if you are realistically considering a given school—if you are accepted by one of your reach schools and a safety waitlisted you, it’s probably not worth your time to engage in the waitlist process. Turning down a spot on the waitlist will leave it open for someone who actually wants to attend that school (you'd want someone to do the same for you!).

Keep your grades up

While you don’t have to work as hard your senior year, you do still have to work. Go to school, do your homework, take tests, and don’t get C’s! Make sure you know how much your senior year performance matters, and keep it reasonable.

Commit to your decision!

Once you’ve made a choice, it’s time to reject all your other offers and send in your deposit, signature, and any other necessary documents. You might have some moments of second guessing your decision, but take a breath and know that's completely normal. This is a tough decision, but, if you deeply consider it, we're sure you'll make the best choice for yourself!

Now, congratulate yourself with a quick pat on the back—it’s time to start shopping for dorm gear and obsessing over new spirit wear! Good luck in the fall!

At CollegeVine, we help families confidently navigate the path to the best schools for them. We offer comprehensive test prep, mentorship, and college application guidance in order to make sure every student has the best chance of getting into the right college for their unique situation.

Have a Question? Contact the Service Center at 1-877-799-6772.