You have two distinct phases to choosing where to attend college. The first comes when you whittle down the 5,300 U.S. colleges into the handful that might appeal to you: the schools in the running, based on academic reputation, proximity to home, your belief that you have a shot at being admitted, and cost. Know that we have other posts that deal with that phase; that phase is not what this post is about.
How Many Colleges Should I Apply To?
Rather, this piece aims to help you with the second phase: you’ve narrowed down the list, visited the schools from the first phase, applied to the colleges with the best feel and fit, and been admitted to more than one of them. Of the colleges that have accepted you, you can’t decide which one to enroll in. Below are three tips for deciding which college to attend.
Read 3 more tips for deciding what college to attend here.
1. Make a final-four bracket
You’ll be tempted to make a list of pros and cons of each school, but our brains evolved to deal with A/B choices, not lists.
On a hunt, your ancestor faced a right/left choice when the wooded path forked. Remembering that the last four who chose left never returned to the clan, they chose right, allowing them to survive and pass on their ability to make good choices when presented with two—and just two—options. Like all vexing subjective decisions, making a bracket where you eliminate schools by matching them up two-by-two will break a mess of a choice into an ordered, pairwise, process.
2. Visit again
A second round of campus visits to the final two or three or four colleges who have accepted you and you are leaning toward is probably a good idea. Many admissions offices can set you up with an overnight or weekend stay.
3. Recognize that there is more than one right answer to this question
Recognize that there is more than one right answer to this question—if you choose any of your final four schools, you’ll likely look back and reflect that you made the obviously correct decision.
Some of the control lies with your capacity to select wisely, but much of it lies with luck. You may land with a roommate that later becomes your business partner if you choose School A, or you may be introduced to your future spouse at a party if you choose School B.
If you tried everything but still can’t decide, go with your gut. If you have no gut instinct, flip a coin, or let your parents decide for you.
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