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Accept or Decline Admission? Picking the Right College

If you’ve been admitted to several colleges, you’ll need to find out more information about each school you’re considering to help you make your decision. Here is a step-by-step list of what you can do to narrow down your prospects:

1. Compare the colleges that admitted you. Which colleges have the programs and majors you want? If you were able to visit any of the college campuses, on which ones did you feel comfortable? What percentage of students return after freshman year, and how many graduate? Think about what attracted you to each school in the first place. Create a list of the pros and cons for each college.

2. If you can, visit the campuses, or return a second time. In case you can’t visit the campus, ask the admissions office to give you the name of a current student or a graduate in your area to contact.

3. Compare the financial aid packages. Sometimes it all boils down to who can give you the best aid, and that may or may not come from your top-choice school. Discuss the financial aid awards offered by each school with your parents, mentor(s), and/or school guidance counselor, and ask for their advice. Make sure you understand what each school is offering in terms of grants and scholarships versus loans and what that would mean down the road when you have to pay back the loans. Read our article about Understanding Financial Aid Packages for more information.

4. Decide by the deadline. At most schools, you will not need to decide until May 1. But be sure to send in your deposit on time or you may lose your place.

5. Respond to the colleges. You will need to submit the following items by the deadline:

  • Acceptance letter
  • Deposit
  • Separate acceptance letter for financial aid

And don’t forget to send a letter to the colleges you turn down so that the schools may offer your place to other students.

If You Are Wait-Listed

“Make sure that you don’t lose your guaranteed spot in one school by waiting to see if you’ll come off the wait-list of another.”Since colleges can’t predict how many students will accept or reject their offers of admissions, they will wait-list students to create a pool of applicants to draw from to fill up their freshman classes. About 10 percent of college applicants are wait-listed by colleges, and less than 30 percent of those who agree to remain on the wait-list end up being offered admission—those aren’t great odds. You need to weigh your options carefully so you don’t pass up guaranteed spots for a less likely chance of being chosen from the wait-list.

If you’re wait-listed by a college that you really want to attend, here are some steps you can take to try to move yourself up on the wait-list:

  • Return the card or submit the form online to let the colleges know whether or not you want to be placed on their wait-list. If you don’t want to attend the school, don’t stay on the wait-list.
  • Send a letter to the admissions office stating why you want to attend the college. If the school is your first choice, tell them! Mention any new information about your grades or accomplishments in sports or clubs.
  • Schedule an interview at the college if you haven’t visited it already, and use this in-person opportunity to make your case about why you want to attend.

But don’t just leave it to chance that your extra efforts will guarantee you a spot at your top-choice college. You need to be aware of the deadlines for accepting or declining the admissions offer for each school that did accept you, and when your wait-listed schools may notify you of acceptance. Most of the time, the deadline for accepting admissions (and sending in a deposit) is BEFORE you’ll find out if you’re upgraded from the wait-list to accepted. Make sure that you don’t lose your guaranteed spot in one school by waiting to see if you’ll come off the wait-list of another.