The April Madness of College Decisions

The end of March has rolled around and another kind of “madness” has come to an end – admissions decisions. This is the conclusion of months of waiting – after years of preparation and a long time completing tedious and often daunting applications. Now all is known, almost all, except for those on countless waitlists (and that is another story). Here are some simple rules of the road for the accepted students and their parents.

#1 Empower the student to make the decision

This is a decision that needs to be made by the student, not the parents. Parents should empower their children to make their own decision. This may be the first time the student has made a decision of this magnitude on their own. Some may relish it – others may be intimated. Parents need to be supportive and discuss issues their college bound children may be grappling with. Provide encouragement and be available to answer questions.

# 2 Be real about the finances

If financial aid is an issue, that could be the real decision maker. You can certainly get a quality education at many institutions across the county and I am sure you chose good ones for your list, so a solid monetary offer is most certainly preferable to graduating with a load of debt just to have that name sticker on the back of your car.

#3 Take the campus for a test ride

Have you visited all the schools that have made you offers? These days, students are often accepted without having visited, so it will be key to go to the Accepted Student Open House at each school you are seriously considering and pay close attention to a number of things. Check out the student body. Are they people you want to live with for the next four years? Do they offer enough diversity for you? Hang out in the Student Union or find where people gather and spend time there, ask them what they did last weekend or what they do for fun? Sit in on classes that you are interested in. Talk to professors? Are they accessible? See where the students live? Check out the downtown and surrounding areas. Look at transportation to and from the college, especially if it is far away from where you live; how do students get there?

#4 Know what you’re looking for

Noodle around the school’s website and make sure they have the majors that you are interested in. How awful would that be if you got there and found out that something you might be really interested in wasn’t offered …that has happened to students. Look for internship opportunities, and their career placement office on campus. See what kind of academic support resources are offered to all students. Find out where their students study abroad and see how many students actually take advantage of these programs. Scour the website for all the things that make this college or university unique and therefore maybe just the right place for YOU!

#5 Sleep on it

Stay overnight on the campus either on an overnight arranged by admissions or if they don’t do that, find someone from your school or town that attends the school and see if you can stay with them. This will give you valuable information.

#6 Just the facts please

This is very important. Be careful about listening to other students or girlfriends/boyfriends…they are not YOU and they are not going to this school, YOU are! Beware of comments on College Confidential, Facebook, Twitter and Wiki – these are opinions and not FACT, and are often wrong. YOU need to be evaluating the school for yourself – no one is going there except YOU.

#7 Follow your gut

When you have done all your homework and made your decision, live with it for a couple of days and see how it feels, and if it still feels right, then go with it.

#8 Don’t give up

One more caveat, once you attend, give it some time, everyone doesn’t immediately adjust to a school as soon as they get there. Don’t give up on school right away. Most new situations take a little time to get used to. Once you do, you will find they are the best four years of your life.