<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1516747898624060&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Need to Decide About Where to Attend College? Trust yourself

Posted by Mary Kate McCain, Co-Director of College Counseling on Feb 23, 2022 2:33:01 PM

“Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you…….”. It’s the phrase every senior wants to read when they hear back from the schools to which they applied. Many of our students have already received good news based on early decision and early action results. But many Tabor students, and certainly the majority of high school students throughout the US, are not under binding decisions. For them, they wait. And once they get their acceptances, they decide. Ask them in June what was harder, waiting or deciding, and you might be surprised by the answer. But now it is real. Students are in the driver’s seat, about to make a decision that has been hyped as the most important of their lives to date. Many have bought into a myth of the idealized college experience only to be attained at the perfectly matched school. With the stakes ratcheted up so high, it’s no wonder they fear a misstep.   

First, seniors have time. May 1 is college decision day, the date when seniors must accept one admission offer. Students and families should think carefully about how to spend the next few weeks. 

Go back to the beginning

Seniors, remember your first few meetings with your counselor? We discussed your Tabor experience, reviewed your model college, and unpacked all of your initial thoughts on schools. You researched colleges, you visited where possible, and your thinking evolved. Reflect on that journey and what got you to this point. Have your priorities changed? 

Wait for all decisions to come in

Don’t rush to decide before you have all of the information. One school might be at the top of your list until another accepts you with merit money. Another school might lose its initial luster after the accepted student program. Suddenly, a school that hadn’t fully captured your attention seems more compelling. Use the next few weeks to gather information as it comes in and get organized. Right down pros and cons for every school. Take time to self-reflect.  

Consider cost

For most families, a school’s cost, represented by tuition, room and board, associated travel, and loans, impacts the decision of where to enroll. Parents and guardians need to be transparent with their students about these financial realities as early in the process as possible. Does the student truly have a choice in where to attend college, or will cost narrow the field? The evaporation of the illusion of control is often at the center of student disappointment in the college process. For families applying for aid, talk with your college counselor about your financial aid award so that you understand it fully. Parents and guardians, be clear and be honest. 

Visit/revisit a school

Whether you’ve waited to visit campuses until receiving an acceptance or you’re touring for a third time, seniors should consider attending open houses and other campus events. Pat McNally, Senior Associate Director of Admission at Boston University, says seniors need to think about what life would be like at these institutions for four years. He recommends not waiting until the last minute to RSVP for campus events. Take time to walk around the campus on your own.  Students, try to get a feel for the campus and imagine yourself there. Boston College’s Howard Singer, Associate Director of Admissions, believes that a panel of seniors reflecting upon their four years is the best way to learn about a school. “You get a longitudinal perspective on the entire experience. This, along with any special freshmen panel, will help to represent a variety of student opinions.  You can be clinical and objective in your assessment of your 'fit' for an institution.” 

Students, be consumers. Do whatever you can to take a school on a test drive. Eat out locally, strike up a conversation with a current student or Tabor grad who goes there, and spend some unstructured time on campus. How does it feel? 

Look beyond rankings

My favorite blogger, Rick Clark, Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Georgia Tech, said it best in a February 2nd post, “When I arrived at Tech, we were admitting well over 60% of applicants. Just a few years ago we sat around 40%. This year’s class will see an admit rate below 20%. Are the students significantly smarter, more talented, or more destined for future success? Absolutely not.” Families often default to a “name,” a ranking or an accept rate and assume that alone denotes excellence and fit. A low acceptance rate does not equal a “good school” or success in life. If you like numbers, then look at more instructive data. The US Department of Education’s  College Score Card shares info on a range of metrics at US colleges, including graduation rates, retention rates, and median earnings for graduates. It even breaks down earnings by major and degree, so you can compare earnings for, let’s say, a computer science major across a number of colleges. You may be surprised by the data you learn about a lesser-known college. 

Trust your gut

Students hear this a lot, and as one of my seniors asked, “What if my gut isn’t telling me anything?” Think about this in a different way. Trust that you have gathered good information on your college list. Trust that you have asked insightful questions and connected with knowledgeable people on campuses to share their perspectives. Trust your family and friends to listen to you and offer feedback. Trust that you cannot make a wrong decision. Sometimes the myth of the perfect school prevents students from making their college decision with confidence.  Julie DuPont, Assistant Director of Admissions at University of Richmond, shares this advice. “Go with your gut, always. And if you don’t have a gut feeling one way or the other, think about which school you are most excited to tell your friends about—and what is it about that school that makes you so excited? Believe it or not, there are multiple colleges you can attend and be successful. The idea of finding “the one” simply isn’t true for some people. Choosing a college can be very easy for some, and very difficult for others, and that’s okay.” Howard Singer echoed this sentiment. “What sticks with me is how often students indicate that a school just ‘feels right.’ Sometimes in life you have to go with your gut!” 

Final thoughts:

Parents, remind your child that no matter where they go, you support their decision and that you love them, you are proud of them, and you know they will find success. 

Seniors, this decision feels weighty because it is, but perhaps less so than you think. You can find success wherever you go if you embrace the opportunities available to you in college and engage fully in the life of the school. A college won’t make you great. That’s on you. 

Topics: College Counseling