No one said decisions were easy, let alone big (shall we say, Jumbo?) decisions. It's okay if you don't know. This month is your time to prioritize yourself and celebrate your options. We asked some current students (who made this decision just a few years ago) and some admissions officers (who think about this stuff all the time) to offer their best, unbiased (okay, maybe a little biased) advice on how to decide where to go to college.
Julie Doten '18
My advice? Breathe. Ok good, do that again. And repeat.
You've done all the hard work already; now sit back and let the colleges you spent so long trying to impress, now try and impress you. Ok, so it might not be that easy, but it will work out in the end if you're honest with yourself about what you want and what will make you happy. When I was choosing where to go to college, I was overwhelmed with how big of a decision it was. I kept thinking, "You want me to decide where I'm going to spend the next four years of my life? Where to continue my education, which will ultimately lead me to a career? When I have no clue what I want to do? As a senior in high school am I even qualified to make that decision...?" It's scary to make such a large choice, especially if it's the first of this magnitude that you've had to make for yourself. Don't worry, you're not alone.
One real piece of advice that I can offer is to listen to others, but most importantly listen to yourself. I wanted there to be someone who could just tell me what to do, tell me what decision to make. Unfortunately, that someone can only be you. Your family, friends, and teachers may have some good points to consider that you haven't taken into account yet, but at the end of the day, you're the one who has to go to the college you choose, not them. There is no one who can see into your future and tell you what to do now in the present (if you find someone, lmk). Any college is what you make of it, so try and pick the one that you think you'll be able to make the most of. You can do this, I have complete faith - you did get into Tufts, after all!
Jheanelle Owens '21
Everyone has their own unique set of limitations and conditions that impact which college is the right one for them. My advice to the student who has gotten into a few schools and is currently trying to pick which one to attend is this: put your happiness first, along with your pocket.
The best way to see if a school will make you happy is to visit the campus and engage in the community. Many schools give accepted students the opportunity to visit campus, be hosted by a current student and experience a mini-orientation. If you live outside of the United States or just live far away from the school in question, see if the school you’re interested in offers financial aid for travel for these programs.
If you are unable to visit a school, then look online for evidence of what the culture is like on campus. Once you have decided which schools you genuinely vibe with, consider the money. If you are able to afford your top pick, then that’s awesome! If not, choosing a school you like less but can afford more is not the end of the world. You are likely to end up enjoying the school more than you did initially.
Never choose to attend a school solely because of its prestige. If you can avoid it, never choose to attend a school you hate but has offered you a lot of financial aid. At the end of the day, you will have to spend virtually every day of the next four years at whichever school you choose, so put yourself first.
P.S: to my non-U.S residents who are not used to the cold, it is no joke. Google the typical climate of the area of each school you have gotten into so that you know what to expect if you attend a particular school.
Ainsley Ball '21
I fell in love with Tufts immediately after touring campus during the summer before senior year. I then applied ED1 with no doubts that it was where I wanted to spend the next four years. When I got deferred, however, everything I was so excited about was suddenly put on hold, and I spent the next several weeks sending off applications to other schools. When I was eventually accepted in March, I was faced with a decision I had never planned on: Tufts or not? Being deferred meant that my application was no longer binding, and while Tufts had been my goal for the previous year, I still felt like I had a massive decision to make. My deferral had made me question how I stacked up against other applicants, and even though I knew my eventual acceptance meant I was qualified, I couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't as strong or competitive as other students. What finally snapped me out of this spell of self-doubt was visiting for Jumbo Days.
Over the several months between pressing “submit” and reading my acceptance letter, my relationship to the school had changed, and with so much thought put into overanalyzing my decision, I had forgotten all the things I loved about Tufts. Being on campus again and having conversations with my potential classmates reminded me that Tufts was not some big, scary deferral-machine and, most importantly, that I did truly belong on campus. Even if revisiting is not possible, my advice is to reconnect. Being deferred allowed me to become distant from Tufts, but engaging with the students and campus before submitting my deposit made me feel part of it again. To those of you who were deferred: that sucks, but Tufts would not have accepted you if you didn't have something incredible to add, and instead of psyching yourself out, try to reflect on why you applied ED in the first place. My journey, as yours may be, was tumultuous, but I chose right. After having been here for almost a year I can tell you that I feel just as enamored now as I did on that first campus tour.
Desmond Fonseca '20
In making a big decision, I like to look at the little things, the details, the “marrow of life,” in the words of Henry David Thoreau (my high school AP Lit teacher would be proud of that reference). Choosing where I would spend the next 4 years of my life, where I would sleep, eat, and study, was the biggest decision I had ever made. In the beginning of my search, I, like many others, tended to focus on the big things — the quantifiable things — such as rankings, class sizes, student-faculty ratios, majors, and other stuff you can find on any admissions website. It wasn’t until I looked inward at those little things; the WMFO station, the Africana Center, specific pre-orientation programs, and all those dope little shops and stops in Davis Square, that my mental image of what Tufts was and is became more clear. These were details specific to me and my own interests — know yourself and your own. At the same time, these details, these little things, were not necessarily immediate decision makers, but crucial tie breakers between tough choices. My biggest advice would be to go find your own tiebreakers.
Greg Wong, Associate Director of Admissions
Go with your gut - which is easier said than done. Back when I made that final decision, it wasn’t so “final.” On May 1, I put down my deposit at one school, and by May 2, I had to call the school to tell them that I actually decided to enroll elsewhere. Don’t let this be you! Make sure that the first place you choose is actually it. When I say “it,” I mean a community that is an intentional choice – one that will not only speak to your interests and needs but will also allow you to develop ones that you aren’t even aware of yet. It is the college that you are thinking about constantly because it brings you outside your comfort zone. It is the place that makes you get goosebumps because you’re so excited for the adventure ahead. It is also the institution that makes sense for you, your family, and your finances. Your first feelings are often right – so trust them.
Beky Stiles '12, Assistant Director of Admissions
Yay! You got into college! Take a victory lap, treat yourself to your favorite thing (a new book, marathon-ing Stranger Things with your friends, testing out that new Arduino…you do you!), and breathe. As you start to think about where you can see yourself in college, remember that a college isn’t just a random assortment of buildings with a big name that your great aunt in Enid, Oklahoma, will recognize; a college is a community of people (please excuse me for stating the obvious). My point is, you should think about what community you want to impact over the next few years, and what type of people you want impacting your own view of the world. So if you get to visit the campuses as you’re making your decision, talk to current students! Chat with your future classmates! I promise it’s not weird to sit down with a random group of people in the dining hall. And if you can’t make it to campus, your admissions officer can put you in contact with a student who has similar interests to you. We want to help you find your home and your people.
Brian Burbank, Assistant Director of Admissions
Create a pros and cons list. Admittedly, I'm a big fan of these lists, but I realize this idea isn't exactly groundbreaking. The fact of the matter is that each student’s college process is different. When you were initially shaping your list, you likely applied to some schools because others thought you should (your parents, friends, counselor). But your priorities will differ from those of your friends. Your “must-haves” may not even be on the radars of your classmates and conversely, their must-haves may not be on yours. That is okay. Recognizing your process as unique and individual is the first step in making a decision. And it goes beyond just making a decision; it is about making the best decision for you. So yes, make that list of pros and cons; consider what aspects of a college experience are important to you; and decide what school best fits your wants and needs. Good luck!