Making decisions is hard. We get that. So we decided to ask 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.
Dylan Hong '19
You’re looking at the list of schools that you just got into. You’re excited, nervous, uncertain. Maybe I’m imposing how I felt, but it was certainly a defining moment in my life. This is possibly the first time in your life that you’re in control of where you are going, who you will meet, what you will study, and whichever decision you make is a game of balancing pros and cons. You might have applied to each and every school for a reason, but you also might have just applied to whatever schools popped into your mind. Take the time to go through the material that the schools put out. Those materials will show the types of students you’ll see at that college. These will be the people you surround yourself with for the next four years of your life. So really think “Will I be happy there?” And hopefully it can help you make your choice. As cliché as it may be, go with your gut. Trust that whatever decision you make, you will be okay!
Benya Kraus '18
I applied to schools from across the Atlantic Ocean in Bangkok, Thailand. My shortlist was composed of schools that I knew my mother's friends would approve of and that my school counselors expected me to apply to. And I ended up absorbing a lot of their expectations as well, googling schools that appeared on the top of Forbes lists and that got the biggest hits on College Confidential. These Google searches and reputable lists were used to justify the yawns and detachment I would feel when listening to representatives from those schools present at my high school. I began comparing my numbers to their numbers to the point where I started to forget and delegitimize the unquantifiable worth I have outside of numbers.
MY interactions at Tufts pushed me, for the first time, to ask not whether I was good enough for this institution, but whether this institution held a community that I wanted to give myself to and be a part of. It was the first time during this process that a university wholeheartedly acknowledged my worth as a change-maker -- not through my test scores, GPA, and a laundry list of extracurriculars, but through my excitement to learn, give, and contribute to the betterment of a community. When I arrived on campus, it was the first time I was asked, "do you want to join us and be a part of making this community, the Tufts community and the world community, a better place?"
The answer was a wholehearted, genuine, yes.
If I could go back, I wish I could have started my college search process looking for a university whose community I felt could push me to care more extensively and love more deeply -- a community who could recognize my worth and welcome my contributions to make their community, and the communities they are connected to, better.
Abigail Mcfee '17
I’ve made hundreds of decisions since coming to Tufts four years ago: about classes, roommates, summer jobs, leases, my major advisor, and what to eat in the dining hall. You’d think I would be good at decisions by now. But I still find it to be one of the hardest things—having a set of options, and turning them into one choice.
Right now, I’m deciding what to do after graduation, and you’re deciding which college to attend. Well-meaning people will give you a lot of advice. “Make a pros and cons list,” some will say. Others will ask, “Can you picture yourself there?” And then there is the ever-elusive “feeling inside”—trust it, they’ll say.
It was a feeling that brought me to Tufts. But feelings don’t always come as an excited flutter or an intense, instant certainty. You don’t always open your acceptance letter or step onto a college campus and just know.
And that’s okay. My advice, to add to the heap of advice you might already be receiving, is to value moments like this that force you to ask questions. When it comes time to choose, pick a college that will inspire you to continue asking questions: about yourself and other people and the books you read and things that are happening in the world. Four years from now, you’ll be grateful for the way those questions fueled you, and made you grow.
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.
Liam Knox '19
When I began applying to schools, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted - an elite, progressive institution with a small student body and many, many miles between it and home. This was a good starting point, but the ideal school I came up with from this criteria - my ED choice from which I was (thankfully) deferred - would have made me absolutely miserable. I now know that the things I love most about going to Tufts would have been sorely lacking in most of the places I applied. When I learned I'd been accepted to Tufts, I had already decided to go elsewhere for some of the same reasons that I chose my ED school, i.e. to live in cynical isolation on a stunning country campus and write lots of nihilist poetry. When I came to Tufts, everything I loved about it was the opposite of what I thought I wanted from my university: close proximity to a great city, opportunities to learn about global subjects, a social scene that is both incredibly fun and intellectually fulfilling, etc. Most of all, I saw people who were passionate about their education, people who were happy yet constantly challenging their world and their comfort, people who I found I actually loved being around. When I received my financial aid package and knew it'd be possible for me to attend, I did not hesitate in becoming a Jumbo.
So how can you avoid relying on the sheer luck that brought me to Tufts to choose the college that's right for you? If I've learned anything from this experience, it's that before you can even begin to think about which college you'd thrive in, you have to discover who you really are, and who you want to become. yes, it's important to explore college options and do lots of reading about academics, social culture, etc., but it's equally as important to explore yourself before heading into the process. Chances are, your high school experience was more repressive than enabling of any significant personal growth (standardized testing and rigid class structures aren't exactly ideal catalysts for self-discovery). So please, before you make any decisions, sit down and look inside yourself. Who you are and what you want may come as a surprise to you (it certainly did to me), but it also might lead you somewhere you truly belong.
Sayaka Smith, Admissions Counselor
My own personal advice is to visit classes or take sample classes at an admitted students event. It’s something you don’t usually get a chance to do when you tour campuses when putting together your college search list. There’s nothing like sitting in the classrooms and experiencing classes you will be able to take in a few months’ time or a year or two down the line. For that same reason, I’d also recommend that you actually spend some time in the library or other places you’ll be spending a lot of time as a student without a tour and at your own pace. Go off campus too – does the local community feel like a nice fit, does it have the essentials you’re looking for? Can you picture yourself in the classes, library, coffee houses?
Jaime Morgen '14, Assistant Director of Admissions
I consider myself an organized person- coworkers and friends can tell you I thrive off of lists and am giddy when I receive a new planner. Not surprisingly, I used to rely on pro/con lists to help with big decisions. After some time, I realized I was being too methodical. My old roommate used to jokingly, ask me “What would future Jaime want?” This was usually in reference to me not wanting to cook dinner or do my laundry, but I realize now that it can be helpful when making any type of decision. Think about future you. Not the 17 year old right now that is comfortable in high school, but the 22 year old you receiving your college diploma. What kind of college can best the support the future you? Which school allows you to step out of your comfort zone enough to mature and grow in the span of four years?
Hayden Lizotte '15, Admissions Counselor
First off - take a deep breath. I know it can feel like this decision is the biggest you will ever make and that it will determine the rest of your life. That's certainly how I was made to feel when I was in your shoes. But remember - worst case scenario? You go to college. You meet great people, try new things, and learn so much more about yourself and the world than you did before. It'll all turn out okay.
Okay, now that you're calmer, my advice on actually making a decision is to start by looking at what's the same about all your top schools. Once you've figured out what they share, you can start thinking about what separates them from each other. For me, all three of my top choices were within a three hour drive from home and had excellent, student-focused academic programs that I knew would challenge me. The differences were that only one (spoiler alert: it's Tufts) was located close enough to public transportation for me to really be a part of a city, was much larger than my high school, and offered undergraduate research opportunities. I decided that the larger size and closeness to a city were things I wanted from my college experience - and that made my decision easy. So rather than focus on the similarities (and there should be a lot of them - these were all colleges you liked enough to apply to), focus on the differences to make your decision easier!