I am not a huge fan of the month of March. The energy of the month always seems to be “off” for me. Maybe it’s just the culmination of too many months of cold weather (if you live in colder climates). Maybe it’s the month’s inability to choose a climate, weather pattern, or temperature that it wants to commit to. Maybe it is something related to astrology and the alignment of the sun, moon, stars, etc. Whatever it might be, I just always look forward to March ending!
However, while I eagerly await for the arrival of April, I try to find silver linings each day. As a college counselor, one of my highlights is that March is when almost all colleges around the country unveil their final decisions about a student’s application status. I am fortunate enough that for most of my students, I receive very positive news sent over in late afternoon and evening text messages. The sense of joy and pride that comes from students and their families is infectious and makes the hours spent on applying to the colleges worth it. There is nothing better than reading…
“I got IN!!”
“Thank you so much for all your help!”
“I got a great scholarship!”
“My dreams are coming true!”
“How am I going to choose?”
Once the elation subsides, many students are left with hard decisions. They just spent months deciding which colleges to apply to. I encourage students to put colleges on their list that they may not have a strong chance of being admitted to, but would be happy to attend if accepted. When a student applies to 6 colleges, likes them all, and gets into them all, they have a very good problem on their hands. However, this good problem can also be stressful for students and their families. That is why my job as a college counselor does not end simply because an application has been submitted. My job is to support students and families through graduation, and the decision-making process is one step in the college admissions process that is anything but simple.
Here are some valuable tips that I share with my students to help them decide where they should spend the next 4 to 5 years:
1. Compare and contrast the academic program –
Review the curriculum plan and requirements for the degree program that you have been accepted to or you are most interested in pursuing. How much flexibility does one program have over another? Do you want flexibility or do you want a structured plan? What electives seem appealing? Which college provides more elective options? Are there any graduation requirements like a senior thesis or capstone project? When all is said and done, which academic program looks the most engaging?
2. Visit the campus, talk to current students, participate in virtual sessions and tours
The opportunity to visit or remind yourself of what the schools look like can help ignite the same feelings that encouraged you to apply in the first place. If the school is now doing in-person tours, try to take the time to do a visit. If they are not offering tours, see what programs are taking place online that are encouraging students to meet with college reps or current students, and get a visual of the campus. Don’t forget about resources like www.youvisit.com or YouTube videos of the colleges to help remind you of the campus’ aesthetics and opportunities.
3. Compare and contrast the finances
Now that financial aid packages will have become available, all things might not be equal when it comes to how much college will cost. As a family, it is important to consider the cost of the college education, especially taking into consideration if graduate school or additional training will be necessary for your future career.
4. Go with your gut!
Year after year, my students will call me up or sit in front of me in my office and, with a heavy bout of stress, they will say that they have narrowed down their choices to 2-3 options and now they do not know how to choose. The first question I ask is, “When you woke up this morning, what college did you think about first?” The challenge of choosing a college is that there are many excellent options. Choosing just one is a very hard decision and for many students, it’s the first real “adult” decision they have to make. The best advice I have given is to go with your gut. Take as much as a week to pay close attention to your thoughts and feelings when someone mentions or discusses one of the finalists on your list. How do you feel when College A is mentioned vs College B? Does one get you more excited than another? Do you find yourself going back to review the information about one versus another? When you close your eyes where do you see yourself? In the end, your gut will always lead you in the right direction.
5. Remember, if it does not work out, there are almost 3000 other options!
Life happens when students go off to college. People change. Interests evolve. Life circumstances can derail future plans. Things happen and sometimes the choice a student makes for college might not be the right fit in the end. When that happens, I remind my students that everything happens exactly as it should and even if it does not work out now, it might have been necessary to guide you to the right place. If the choice you make today does not work out in the long-run, it is not a failure, but an opportunity to pivot and transfer to another program that could steer you in the right direction.
If your student is struggling with making their final college decision and wants some support, please reach out to Dana Ponsky at email@example.com to schedule a call or consultation.