Just when you think all of the mental turmoil is coming to an end, the envelopes start arriving. Big ones with good news, small ones with bad news, small ones with good news, and oh, the emails and opportunities to read admissions decisions from a website. It’s enough to make you wish the U.S. Postal Service would hurry up and go bankrupt already. It won’t this year, though, and without fail, admissions decisions will start rolling in.
No matter how good or bad the news, it’s likely you will have some serious options to mull over.
If you didn’t get into your dream school, it may seem hard to believe at this exact moment, but what you see as the next best thing might actually be your perfect fit. Happiness in college doesn’t result from where you go; it comes from how you go. Commit to approaching your freshman year with optimism, openness, and the willingness to work hard and make mistakes, I promise you will have a blast (or your money back!)*
If you did get into your dream school, give your financial aid package a serious once-over. The old saying don’t look a gift horse in the mouth doesn’t really hold true here, especially since that horse could end up costing you tens of thousands in student loans. Compare your financial aid package from your dream school to those of the other schools to which you applied. If you need more money, get in touch with the financial aid office and see how far a little proactivity and kindness can go.
If you are one of those students without a dream school, you’ve got a major project ahead of you. Find the hidden dream school in the schools that accepted you. If you know what you might be interested in studying, you can start by checking out which schools have the best (your program) departments. Check out online course offerings (MOOCS) so you can see an example of what’s being taught, email students, professors, get on ratemyprofessor, check out what alumni are up to in your field.
If you have absolutely no idea what you would like to study you are not alone. You can still browse online course offerings in any subjects that catch your eye. Browse course catalogs, check out universities and colleges youtube channels, and pore over websites and student blogs. Look up graduation rates- what percentage of students graduate in four years? What percentage graduate in six? What percent of students return after freshman year? What percentage of alumni gives back to the university?
Then, look forward by looking back. Get a blank piece of paper and jot down things you liked and didn’t like about your high school. If you loved growing up in or near a city, perhaps a rural campus isn’t right for you. If you’re not a big fan of cities, you probably shouldn’t go to NYU. Next—size: if you felt lost in the crowd in a high school with a few thousand students, maybe a smaller college would provide the tight-knit community you desire. Likewise, if your too-small high school left you feeling claustrophobic, you might like a bigger university where you will encounter new faces every day. Use your feelings towards the life you have lived for the last four years to find clues about what you might like from the next four.
Finally, follow your heart and don’t worry about making a mistake or making a choice to please anyone else. College is your opportunity — seize it and have fun!