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After months of preparing your applications and anxiously awaiting the results, you have finally received an outcome. Whether you are celebrating acceptances, weighing your options between schools, dealing with the sting of rejection, or facing the uncertainty of the waitlist, the college decision season is a time of swirling emotions and deliberations about the future. Regardless of the decision(s) you’ve received, you may be unsure of the next steps to take. From choosing between colleges to dealing with rejection, we have answers to all your questions to minimize the stress of decision season.

Jump to the section that best fits your situation:

I was deferred from Early Decision (ED) or Early Action (EA) to Regular Decision (RD).

If you were deferred, you might be feeling disappointed, worried, confused, or panicked.

Being deferred from a school that you applied to EA or ED is not an indication that your application was lacking or that your hopes of attending the school are dashed—students who are deferred have applications that are competitive enough to be reconsidered but were not successful in the initial application round.

Much like students on the waitlist from RD applications, there’s still hope for deferred students. The main difference between being waitlisted and deferred is the time at which you’ll be notified of admission (deferred students find out at the same time as RD students whereas waitlisted students might not find out until a few weeks before the school year starts). Additionally, waitlisted students have to hope that another admitted student decides not to matriculate in order for a spot to open up for them.

While the continued wait for a decision may feel agonizing, there are still things you can do to use your time wisely after you have been deferred. After you have received news of your deferral, consider doing the following:

1. Reconsider your options.

There are positive aspects of a deferral—if you were deferred after applying ED, the binding ED contract to enroll no longer applies. Instead, the same rules that apply to RD applicants apply to you, as you’re now considered an RD applicant. This means that you have more freedom to weigh your options and reconsider schools that you may have bumped down on your list when anticipating an ED acceptance. In other words, you get another chance to re-evaluate your college list and revisit the unique strengths of all the schools you are considering! When deferred, students should ask themselves—do I still want to pursue the school I applied to ED or EA or have I learned something new about another school on my list that increased my interest?

If you have realized since applying that a particular ED school where you have been deferred is not for you, you can choose to withdraw your application altogether. If you’ve discovered another college that you are more interested in or got into one of your other early schools, you can focus your energy on the positive instead of waiting anxiously for a decision. You can also apply to another school that has ED II, which is also binding but is due at the regular application deadline. Since ED II is a binding application, it has a higher acceptance rate than RD.

2. Write a letter of continued interest.

If you still want to attend your EA or ED school, you can boost your chances of acceptance by putting in the effort to write a letter of continued interest. A letter of continued interest is a brief note to the school that expresses your continued intention to attend the school should you be accepted. Remember that colleges carefully consider their yield rate, which is determined based on how many accepted students choose to enroll—this is why ED exists in the first place! If you show the admissions committee that you’re serious about attending, they’ll be more likely to reconsider your application in a positive light. In addition, a letter of continued interest should provide the school with a brief snapshot of your accomplishments since you initially applied—whether a boost in your GPA or an award for academic or athletic achievements. For more information about how to write a letter of continued interest, check out our comprehensive guide!

3. Continue writing and revising essays.

Since acceptance to your EA or ED school is not guaranteed, you should continue to work hard on your other applications, particularly any supplemental essays you have yet to write. A stellar supplemental essay will show the college that you have done their research into the school and programs of your choice while also demonstrating what you will add to the campus community. As you finish writing and reviewing your applications, you should evaluate what you can do differently in your activities list or essays. Try to showcase your unique accomplishments whenever possible and show, rather than tell, what you are passionate about. Continuous editing and revision will also highlight any spelling or grammatical errors that you didn’t catch in the first draft.

I was accepted Early Decision (ED) but I’m having second thoughts.

So you have received the exciting news that you were accepted into a school you applied to ED. Applying ED can seem like a great idea when initially applying. Among the uncertainty of applications, it can be attractive to increase your own chances at schools by committing to going if you’re accepted. While the news of your acceptance might initially come as a welcome relief, what happens if, in the month and a half since you sent in the application, you’ve found schools that are better for you? What if you’ve realized you don’t want to go at all? What do you do if your ED acceptance goes from exhilarating to suffocating?

Unfortunately, one of the only reasons you can back out of ED binding acceptances is for financial aid reasons. If your family is faced with a significant financial barrier to attending college, most schools will let you assess their financial aid offers before committing to the binding acceptance. There are also other extenuating circumstances that admissions officers may take into consideration—for example, a death in your immediate family or something else that would fully change your situation.

In general, however, if you’re not someone who can claim this financial barrier, or the school provides you with adequate financial aid, you don’t have a good enough reason to back out in the eyes of colleges.

But what does it mean to back out?

Even though in most cases ED is not legally binding, it is a meaningful agreement between you and the college.

The agreement you make in applying ED does prevent you from attending other colleges. Colleges share lists, and backing out of one or trying to two-time them might result in both of your admissions offers being rescinded. While this may seem unfair, it behooves colleges to cooperate in this regard: if another student tries to back out down the line, they can count on other colleges to similarly hold students to their commitments.

So, if you’re having any doubts about your ability to attend, you should reach out to the school directly and discuss your situation.

Finally, the pressure of the college decision can greatly impact our perception of the options available to us. Before taking any of the steps outlined above, revisit the school’s website, your notes about your college visit, and your supplemental essays addressing why you want to attend that school specifically. Remembering the initial excitement you felt about the school can help you think critically about the doubts you feel. Odds are, there is a reason you felt confident enough to apply ED—recalling that reason may help you confront and resolve your feelings of uncertainty.

I was rejected from my top school(s).

Even the most qualified candidates can open their inbox to find an “I regret to inform you…” email. In the face of a college rejection, you might be feeling defeated, confused, and even hopeless. As with any difficult situation, you need to give yourself time and permission to feel whatever emotions you’re feeling, and to process your sadness and disappointment. Talk to your friends and family about how you’re feeling rather than trying to act like it’s okay. If you like journaling, write about how you’re feeling.

After allowing yourself time to acknowledge your feelings, start focusing on your next steps. Moving forward and focusing on your future is essential. Rather than getting stuck in a negative mindset, think about the positive qualities of your other options. Your next steps depend on whether you didn’t get into the college(s) you hoped to attend, or if you didn’t get into college at all. If you haven’t heard back from all of your colleges, don’t worry prematurely about being rejected from colleges altogether. As long as you had a balanced college list, it’s highly unlikely that you didn’t get in anywhere. However, if that’s the position you find yourself in, take heart. This isn’t the end of your educational journey!

If you have been rejected from your dream school…

It’s hard to let go of a dream. Perhaps you had dreamed of attending this college since you were a child or fell in love with the school as soon as you stepped on campus. Even if you were accepted to other colleges that you do like, those victories may seem pale in comparison to the defeat you feel right now. However, try your best to celebrate the significant accomplishment of getting into other colleges. Getting accepted into college—even a college that was not your top choice—is proof that your work wasn’t wasted. If you’ve been working hard throughout high school and approached your college applications with determination and integrity, you likely got into some other great colleges! Remember that regardless of where you enroll, your college experience will be what you make of it, so try to adopt the mindset that you will thrive wherever you end up. Shift your energy from waiting anxiously to excitedly researching the other colleges you were accepted to. Identify classes, clubs, professors, and other aspects of these colleges that you are enthusiastic about. Think positively and make the most of it. Doing so can help you become more hopeful for the future and, in turn, less disappointed with the present.

With all of this in mind, if you really aren’t ready to let that dream go, you do have one more option. If you have new information, such as a previous grade that was incorrect and is now fixed, or you have retaken your SAT/ACT and improved your score significantly, you can write an appeal letter. Sending an appeal letter encourages your admissions officer to reconsider your application in light of this new information. If you have an “it doesn’t hurt to try” mentality, then go ahead and write one! You should put a decent amount of effort into writing this, but don’t expect your rejection to turn into an acceptance. As you wait for a potentially new decision, you should simultaneously be considering your other college options and getting excited for them.

If you have been rejected from all of your top schools…

Many ambitious students fill their college lists with highly competitive top-tier schools. Even for the most competitive applicants, admissions at prestigious universities can be a numbers game. Elite colleges like Harvard, UChicago, Stanford, etc. receive tens of thousands of applications each year, but they have a limited number of dorm rooms, professors, and advisors to accommodate the students they admit. So it’s inevitable that some really strong candidates end up being rejected. It’s also possible that a single strong candidate can be denied admission to all of their reach schools. If you find yourself in that position, you might be feeling discouraged. Remember that this doesn’t mean you’re not smart, talented, or capable!

College isn’t just about prestige. Having an Ivy League college on your resume might help you land your first job out of college, but what really matters is how you make the most of the next four years, no matter where you are. Wherever you go to school, you can do things to set yourself apart such as meaningful internships, extracurriculars, or conferences that help add impressive material to your resume.

Instead of focusing on what you did wrong, consider that:

  • At one of your match or safety schools, you’ll be a big fish in a small pond, instead of a small fish in a big pond. This can save you from a lot of anxiety and imposter syndrome throughout your college years and enable you to thrive academically.
  • You can choose to challenge yourself by enrolling in an honor’s program at your college, taking extra classes, and even attempting to graduate early!
  • You should attend a college that wants you. Even if you were a perfect candidate academically, you might have been a poor match for the culture of the school. That doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person or that the college has an undesirable culture. It simply means that they were able to recognize that you’ll fit in better at a different school and they saved you the time and trouble of realizing that for yourself!

If you didn’t get into college…

Every individual rejection can be heartbreaking in its own way, but if you don’t get into any of the colleges you applied to, a different type of dread may set in. You might be wondering what to do next, and your friends and family might not have the answers you’re looking for. But don’t worry—there are several things you can do over the next several months or year to make sure you end up in college. There are many benefits to taking time between high school and college, and though this might not be the path you envisioned, try to view the extra time as an opportunity you can take advantage of.

Whatever you decide to do, stay positive! Try not to take this as a reflection of your intellect or academic potential. Luck is a huge factor in college admissions, and you may have been really unlucky. You shouldn’t give up if your future goals or career plans require a college degree. Try again until you get where you need to be!

Regardless of any college rejections you may be facing, this isn’t the end of the road. On the contrary, it’s just the beginning of a new, exciting chapter in your educational journey. If you start at a college next year that you didn’t plan on attending, you will still likely have an enriching experience. You’ll meet incredible professors, make lifelong friends, and gain a deeper understanding of the subjects you’re passionate about. However, if you try your best to make the most of your situation and still find yourself unfulfilled, you always have the option to transfer. While you shouldn’t enter a college with the intention of transferring out of it, it might help to keep that in mind as you make your next move. Nothing is permanent, and you can command your own future.

Apply to a school with rolling admission. These colleges don’t have hard deadlines, so you can still apply to some of them even after you’ve heard back from all of your Regular Decision (RD) schools.

Apply for spring enrollment. Most often, freshmen start college in the fall, but several schools offer a later application deadline for enrollment in the spring semester. Research some of those colleges and see if any of them are a good fit for you.

Attend community college. If you applied to a four-year university, community college probably wasn’t even on your radar. However, attending community college is a great way to continue learning while you wait for the next round of RD applications, hopefully get a few more good grades on your transcript, and demonstrate your preparedness and devotion to higher education.

Take a gap year. For some students, a mental health break or simply some time in a non-academic setting is a time for enrichment and experiential learning. Taking a gap year can make you feel more refreshed, mature, and self-aware when you tackle the next round of college applications.

Retake your SAT or ACT. If you think your scores were holding you back, hunker down and study for your standardized tests so that you earn the scores you need to all but guarantee college admission.

Create a balanced college list. Take some time to reflect on why you didn’t get into college the first time. Maybe your college list was too small, too top-heavy (filled with mostly reach schools), or had a lot of schools that prefer in-state applicants. Whatever the issue was, make sure you correct it when you make your next college list. Your college list should include 5-7 reach schools, 5-7 match schools, and 3-5 safety schools.

Work with a college consultant to craft a better application. Working with a professional can help you avoid classic mistakes as well as make your application stand out to admissions officers.

Regardless of any college rejections you may be facing, this isn’t the end of the road. On the contrary, it’s just the beginning of a new, exciting chapter in your educational journey. If you start at a college next year that you didn’t plan on attending, you will still likely have an enriching experience. You’ll meet incredible professors, make lifelong friends, and gain a deeper understanding of the subjects you’re passionate about. However, if you try your best to make the most of your situation and still find yourself unfulfilled, you always have the option to transfer. While you shouldn’t enter a college with the intention of transferring out of it, it might help to keep that in mind as you make your next move. Nothing is permanent, and you can command your own future.

I was waitlisted.

Discovering that you have been placed on the waitlist at one of your top schools can feel agonizing. You have spent weeks awaiting a decision, and despite thinking that the wait is finally over, you find that you are still unsure of your future at the school. First and foremost, it is important to recognize that being on the waitlist does not mean that your application wasn’t competitive—plenty of well-qualified candidates are placed on the waitlist after a college reaches its maximum number of acceptances. While ultimately you could be accepted after others who have been offered a spot choose whether to enroll, you will not know definitively until late spring. For this reason, it is important to continue researching your other options and seriously consider your other acceptances in case you do not get accepted off the waitlist at your top school. If you have been accepted to another school on your list that you would be equally excited to attend, you can choose to accept that offer and contact the admissions office at your waitlist school to decline your spot. You should only do this if you are entirely confident in your other option and do not feel that an acceptance at your waitlist school would be worth the additional wait.

Alternatively, if you want to remain on the waitlist in the hopes of ultimately being accepted, you should contact the admissions office promptly to accept your place on the waitlist. From there, you can choose to either put a deposit down on your #2 school (or another desirable school on your list to which you have been accepted) or wait until the May 1 deadline to make a decision (though this is by far the less desirable option).

As you remain on the waitlist, you should take proactive steps to show the school that you are continuing to work on your candidacy and demonstrate interest in their program. This can include:

Write a letter of continued interest.

A letter of continued interest is just what it sounds like; it’s a space for you to demonstrate your ongoing interest in a college and your determination to attend that school. You should show off your personality and passion about the school in a friendly letter to your regional admissions officer. For in-depth instructions and advice on how to write a letter of continued interest, check out our guide.

Retake the SAT or ACT.

Some schools will allow you to resubmit your test scores after being waitlisted. If your score was not as stellar as you had hoped or if it is below the median score for that college, consider taking the test again and sending your updated scores to the admissions office.

Keep your grades up.

While you may have hoped that the stress of worrying about your GPA was behind you, if you hope to get off the waitlist, maintaining or improving your GPA is of the utmost importance. Continuing to improve your academic performance will show the college your dedication to excellence in the classroom and demonstrate your ability to rise to the demands of challenging, collegiate-level academics.

While being waitlisted at your top school may feel frustrating, focus on the positives. The door is not yet closed on the opportunity to attend that school, and you can still make the choice to accept an offer from another school that would be a good fit for you!

I was accepted into a couple of schools but I don’t know which to choose.

So your hard work has paid off and you’ve been accepted to more than one of the schools you applied to! Now comes the challenging decision—which school will you choose? With so many different considerations to take into account—from finances to academic programs to location—deciding between the schools to which you’ve been accepted can feel overwhelming, especially if you do not have one clear favorite among your acceptances. Choosing where to go to college is, after all, a very important decision, so giving yourself some time to think about where you will spend your next four years is crucial.

As you choose which school is right for you, these are the most important factors to take into consideration:

Major/Minor Options

If you have a specific academic or career goal, comparing the academic programs within your subject area can serve as a great starting point to make your decision. Colleges can vary substantially in their academic offerings, and specific degrees like Marine Biology or Aerospace Engineering will not be offered by every school. Additionally, many colleges have specialized, niche programs that could offer you much more support in unique fields of study. If you do not yet know which major you want to pursue, the college with the most interdisciplinary opportunities may be a better fit for you. A program that allows you to explore multiple areas of interest will help you narrow your focus while also providing a variety of options so that you do not corner yourself into a major prematurely. Finally, consider the faculty in your intended discipline along with their research and publications. This is an indication of the caliber of the program and the network of scholars that you will learn from. In particular, if you are thinking about pursuing graduate school after you complete college, these professors will be able to help recommend you to prestigious programs.

Distance from Home

How important is the ability to easily go home for a weekend to you? Will you have to fly home for holidays and family visits or will you be able to drive? Some students may intentionally attend college far from home to push themselves to become more independent or branch out from their established friend group back home, but others may prefer the familiarity offered by attending a college within a few hours of their hometown.

Job Placement

When selecting a college, you want to set yourself on the best course to enter your desired professional field after graduation. One metric to consider when weighing this factor is the college’s job placement statistics. Most colleges publish these on their website (sometimes under their Career Services page), but you can also check out the Princeton Review list of Best Value Colleges, which provides school rankings based on career placement.

Location

Your college’s location will have far more impact on your life as a student than you might initially realize. Are you an athlete looking for a more charitable climate? Do you intend to stay close to home? Are you someone who’s looking to engage in extracurricular or professional pursuits beyond what a school can offer? For instance, people looking to do musical theater in their free time would be well-advised to check out schools in New York City, just as those looking to get involved politically might be drawn to Washington, D.C.

Weather is also one of the most common subjects of conversation, and often a surprisingly poignant factor in deciding on colleges. It is very reasonable to consider weather as a factor in your decision if you have noticed it plays a large role in your happiness and wellbeing. Most importantly, the location of your college will likely determine where you establish connections and roots over the next four years. Internship opportunities and, when it comes time, full-time jobs, will often be easier to find depending on a college’s connections to companies in the area.

Money/Scholarships

It is important to consider the cost of the college you’re planning to attend. If you and/or your family will have difficulty paying the steep price of an elite college, you should weigh the different financial aid packages offered by the competing colleges to which you have been accepted. You might also receive merit or athletic scholarships from one school that another school does not offer. You should also consider the cost relative to the future earning potential of the career you hope to pursue in the future. For instance, the cost of an elite college might be justified for those studying law or medicine, as those professions yield higher annual incomes and require graduate school, for which your undergraduate connections and recommendations are critical. Ultimately, the financial ramifications of attending each of the colleges on your list should be strongly considered, particularly if they will pose a serious burden on you and/or your family.

Resources/Opportunities

While the location of a college matters for internships and establishing connections, the resources and opportunities available to you may vary wildly between colleges in the same area. Study abroad options, pre-professional programs, a strong career advising department, and excellent connections through an alumni network are important factors to consider when deciding between colleges. Every college will claim to have the best resources available, so it’s important to research each school’s specific resources and understand the differences between your options.

Prestige/Reputation

Many students and parents become hyper-focused on this factor, but it is absolutely an important consideration. The prestige and reputation of a top college can open doors for you in the years to come. In addition to the college’s primary ranking, check to see how the programs that you’re interested in attending are ranked. A school that you might not consider prestigious may actually be extremely well-ranked in a specific field like business or engineering.

Clubs/Sports/Activities

College is not all about academics and your career—it’s also a fun time to explore your interests! While every college will offer various clubs and activities, it is worth it to check out each school’s clubs to see how you could continue to pursue your interests or find a new one. An avid outdoorsman might want to look into the hiking or adventure club, for example. While official student-athletes may want to consider playing at their level of competition (DI-DIII), students who want to continue their sport in a less competitive manner may want to research the club or intramural options offered by a school. When trying to decide between very similar colleges, the different opportunities to pursue your passions and interests can be excellent tiebreakers!

Size

The size of a student body will play a large role in your social life and academic experience. Smaller colleges will have far more intimate and tight-knit communities, while larger schools offer the opportunity to constantly meet new people. Smaller colleges are often able to offer small class sizes, but larger schools will provide a larger network once you’re out of college. While it can be hard to know which experience you prefer, comparing your own high school’s size and student body with your potential schools’ student populations can offer some insight into what size school you might prefer.

Students/Student Life

This factor generally requires visiting the college itself, but talking to current and prospective students can offer a glimpse into what kinds of people you’ll be surrounding yourself with over the next four years. While it may be impossible to judge with any hard data, connecting with the students you interact with is an essential factor when making your decision. Additionally, ask current students what they do for fun on campus and find out what the social scene is like. Even if you’re convinced that only the academics and prestige of a school matter, asking yourself where you would be the happiest socially can help you break a tie between similar colleges.

Campus

Touring a college campus is an exciting experience for prospective students. The libraries, academic halls, dining rooms, dorms, gyms, and student centers can be dazzling and outfitted with new technologies and other alluring features. Although colleges might have similarly impressive libraries or all-you-can-eat buffets at their dining halls, sometimes you will just feel more at home on one campus than another. Take the time to talk to students and thoroughly explore the campus, including some of the popular hangout spots on campus. If you’re still deadlocked in your decision, trust your gut when you’re visiting the college and ask yourself how being there makes you feel.

I was accepted into a couple of schools but I don’t know which to choose.

So your hard work has paid off and you’ve been accepted to more than one of the schools you applied to! Now comes the challenging decision—which school will you choose? With so many different considerations to take into account—from finances to academic programs to location—deciding between the schools to which you’ve been accepted can feel overwhelming, especially if you do not have one clear favorite among your acceptances. Choosing where to go to college is, after all, a very important decision, so giving yourself some time to think about where you will spend your next four years is crucial.

As you choose which school is right for you, these are the most important factors to take into consideration:

Major/Minor Options

If you have a specific academic or career goal, comparing the academic programs within your subject area can serve as a great starting point to make your decision. Colleges can vary substantially in their academic offerings, and specific degrees like Marine Biology or Aerospace Engineering will not be offered by every school. Additionally, many colleges have specialized, niche programs that could offer you much more support in unique fields of study. If you do not yet know which major you want to pursue, the college with the most interdisciplinary opportunities may be a better fit for you. A program that allows you to explore multiple areas of interest will help you narrow your focus while also providing a variety of options so that you do not corner yourself into a major prematurely. Finally, consider the faculty in your intended discipline along with their research and publications. This is an indication of the caliber of the program and the network of scholars that you will learn from. In particular, if you are thinking about pursuing graduate school after you complete college, these professors will be able to help recommend you to prestigious programs.

Distance from Home

How important is the ability to easily go home for a weekend to you? Will you have to fly home for holidays and family visits or will you be able to drive? Some students may intentionally attend college far from home to push themselves to become more independent or branch out from their established friend group back home, but others may prefer the familiarity offered by attending a college within a few hours of their hometown.

Job Placement

When selecting a college, you want to set yourself on the best course to enter your desired professional field after graduation. One metric to consider when weighing this factor is the college’s job placement statistics. Most colleges publish these on their website (sometimes under their Career Services page), but you can also check out the Princeton Review list of Best Value Colleges, which provides school rankings based on career placement.

Location

Your college’s location will have far more impact on your life as a student than you might initially realize. Are you an athlete looking for a more charitable climate? Do you intend to stay close to home? Are you someone who’s looking to engage in extracurricular or professional pursuits beyond what a school can offer? For instance, people looking to do musical theater in their free time would be well-advised to check out schools in New York City, just as those looking to get involved politically might be drawn to Washington, D.C.

Weather is also one of the most common subjects of conversation, and often a surprisingly poignant factor in deciding on colleges. It is very reasonable to consider weather as a factor in your decision if you have noticed it plays a large role in your happiness and wellbeing. Most importantly, the location of your college will likely determine where you establish connections and roots over the next four years. Internship opportunities and, when it comes time, full-time jobs, will often be easier to find depending on a college’s connections to companies in the area.

Money/Scholarships

It is important to consider the cost of the college you’re planning to attend. If you and/or your family will have difficulty paying the steep price of an elite college, you should weigh the different financial aid packages offered by the competing colleges to which you have been accepted. You might also receive merit or athletic scholarships from one school that another school does not offer. You should also consider the cost relative to the future earning potential of the career you hope to pursue in the future. For instance, the cost of an elite college might be justified for those studying law or medicine, as those professions yield higher annual incomes and require graduate school, for which your undergraduate connections and recommendations are critical. Ultimately, the financial ramifications of attending each of the colleges on your list should be strongly considered, particularly if they will pose a serious burden on you and/or your family.

Resources/Opportunities

While the location of a college matters for internships and establishing connections, the resources and opportunities available to you may vary wildly between colleges in the same area. Study abroad options, pre-professional programs, a strong career advising department, and excellent connections through an alumni network are important factors to consider when deciding between colleges. Every college will claim to have the best resources available, so it’s important to research each school’s specific resources and understand the differences between your options.

Prestige/Reputation

Many students and parents become hyper-focused on this factor, but it is absolutely an important consideration. The prestige and reputation of a top college can open doors for you in the years to come. In addition to the college’s primary ranking, check to see how the programs that you’re interested in attending are ranked. A school that you might not consider prestigious may actually be extremely well-ranked in a specific field like business or engineering.

Clubs/Sports/Activities

College is not all about academics and your career—it’s also a fun time to explore your interests! While every college will offer various clubs and activities, it is worth it to check out each school’s clubs to see how you could continue to pursue your interests or find a new one. An avid outdoorsman might want to look into the hiking or adventure club, for example. While official student-athletes may want to consider playing at their level of competition (DI-DIII), students who want to continue their sport in a less competitive manner may want to research the club or intramural options offered by a school. When trying to decide between very similar colleges, the different opportunities to pursue your passions and interests can be excellent tiebreakers!

Size

The size of a student body will play a large role in your social life and academic experience. Smaller colleges will have far more intimate and tight-knit communities, while larger schools offer the opportunity to constantly meet new people. Smaller colleges are often able to offer small class sizes, but larger schools will provide a larger network once you’re out of college. While it can be hard to know which experience you prefer, comparing your own high school’s size and student body with your potential schools’ student populations can offer some insight into what size school you might prefer.

Students/Student Life

This factor generally requires visiting the college itself, but talking to current and prospective students can offer a glimpse into what kinds of people you’ll be surrounding yourself with over the next four years. While it may be impossible to judge with any hard data, connecting with the students you interact with is an essential factor when making your decision. Additionally, ask current students what they do for fun on campus and find out what the social scene is like. Even if you’re convinced that only the academics and prestige of a school matter, asking yourself where you would be the happiest socially can help you break a tie between similar colleges.

Campus

Touring a college campus is an exciting experience for prospective students. The libraries, academic halls, dining rooms, dorms, gyms, and student centers can be dazzling and outfitted with new technologies and other alluring features. Although colleges might have similarly impressive libraries or all-you-can-eat buffets at their dining halls, sometimes you will just feel more at home on one campus than another. Take the time to talk to students and thoroughly explore the campus, including some of the popular hangout spots on campus. If you’re still deadlocked in your decision, trust your gut when you’re visiting the college and ask yourself how being there makes you feel.

The best way to find out how much you like a college is to go visit it in person! Visiting the campus, and talking to students offers valuable insight into what life there would be like. If you go to a college campus but tours are not available, try speaking with students on the quad. Some colleges also offer overnight options for admitted students, which will give you the opportunity to stay with current students and experience what it’s like to attend the college. If these opportunities are available to you, it is advisable to take advantage of them.

If these in-person options are not available to you, there are still plenty of ways to make an informed decision. While you may have already done quite a bit of research during the application process, now is the time to further research each potential school. Websites like CampusReel and each college’s official website offer glimpses into students’ daily lives and available resources. If the school has an admitted students’ social media group, join and reach out to other prospective students. While it’s not the same as meeting people in person, social media groups offer a chance to connect with your potential classmates. Try asking if anyone in your family or friend group knows a current student or alum that they could connect you with over social media, text, or email. While it may seem intimidating at first, many college students will happily talk to you for a few minutes about what they like/dislike about the school and answer your questions.

Conclusion

Ultimately, picking a college is a very personal decision, and sometimes you have to pick the place that feels like home if you can’t make a decision based on what checks the most boxes on your list. The college experience is what you make of it no matter where you choose to go, so try not to let others sway you too much and trust your instincts!

Below are some additional and related resources.

Pick out a college for your list

Compare Best-Fit Colleges

The Schools Hub

Supplements for your college application

Early Decision & Early Action

The Complete Guide

Creating a Balanced College List

The Complete Guide