This is it. The big time. The last week you have to make the decision that will determine the rest of your life. Or at least that's how I felt, 5 years ago today.
I started the month of April with 5 options, dropped down to 4.. then 2... before finally deciding on Tufts. If your experience is in any way similar, you're probably down to 2, maybe 3, very strong choices. You like them, but you're not quite certain which will be better for you. Maybe the schools are so similar you're struggling to really differentiate between them. Maybe one is higher ranked or has a better reputation, but the other one feels a bit more like home to you. Maybe your choices are all really different and you're struggling to figure out which one is really going to be the best for you.
As I frantically weighed my options with the deadline looming closer, a couple of things helped me focus in on how to make my decision.Hopefully these techniques will help you too:
There are so many factors that could potentially go into this decision that eliminating anything from your decision-making process can make things a lot simpler. For me, I eliminated academics from my decision. I know that sounds crazy - college is first and foremost a school, right? - but it made sense for me. All of the colleges I was looking at were liberal arts colleges that were strong in the humanities (my major of choice). They all boasted small student-faculty ratios (within 1 or 2 of each other), small average class sizes (within 5 or so of each other), and top-ranked professors. I decided that I would get a great education at any of the schools, so I decided to just stop thinking about academics.
This allowed me to focus on differences. Two of my options were in the middle of nowhere while two were in or very close to a city. As I found myself reflecting more on my experience growing up in a VERY suburban town, I realized I wanted to have access to a city. I wanted to know what it was like to be close to a cultural hub, to be able to take public transportation quickly and easily to get where I wanted to go. That made it a lot easier to cut down my list.
I know, it sounds obvious, but you should really do some reflecting on what it is you want to get out of college. Is it most important to you to have fun after working hard all through high school? Then you should pick the school that feels the most fun. Do you feel stifled by a homogeneous environment? Then you should pick the school that is drawing the most people from various backgrounds, geographic locations, and experiences. Do you want a school where people want to make an impact on social change? Then pick the school with the most vibrant activist culture and academic opportunities to engage with making an impact in your community.
Something that I realized pretty late in the game was that size was important to me. I remember the first school I visited was very small, only slightly larger than my high school. I immediately didn't like it, but couldn't quite put my finger on why. It wasn't until April, when I visited another small college and had the same feeling, that I realized that I wanted to be in a place that was much larger than my high school and would allow me to meet many different kinds of people. So I took the small schools off my list. You might be the opposite - maybe your high school is huge and you feel lost, or you're at a small school where you love the sense of community that comes with knowing almost everyone around you. You just have to think through what really matters to you!
This was the most important thing for me. College was an expensive choice for my family, and I knew that we were all going to have to make sacrifices to make it work. I felt responsible for the choice, and put pressure on myself to make the choice that would lead to the best tangible outcomes for me, so my family's sacrifices were worth it, and to make my family happy, rather than myself.
But before I made my decision, I remembered that while my family was going to have to sacrifice to pay for my college, I was going to have to live at that college for four years. And if I was going to be unhappy there, I wasn't going to be successful. Have you ever tried to get homework done when you're miserable? It doesn't work. Your best bet is to pick a college that will make you your best self, and to be your best self you have to have some happiness in there. So even if a place looks like it should be perfect in paper, if you start talking to students and it just doesn't feel right or if you're walking around campus and you just don't feel comfortable, don't be afraid to trust your gut.
I hope this advice can help you make a decision. Take a deep breath, and remember that if you're still struggling to decide at this point, you've probably got some great options in front of you and there are no wrong choices. Good luck, and happy enrolling!