This article was originally published on Big Future.
If you’ve received acceptance offers from more than one college, congratulations! Your hard work has paid off, and now you get to choose which college is best for you.
Don’t worry about choosing that one perfect college — there’s no such thing. The bottom line is that college is what you make of it: What you do while you’re there matters more than the college name on your diploma. Here’s how to make your decision.
Get More Information
You already have a lot of information about each college, but digging a little deeper can help you make the best choice for you.
Ask questions. Create a list of any questions you still have about the colleges you’re considering. You may want to get answers to questions like these:
- How many students return after freshman year? How many graduate?
- Does the college offer a lot of majors I’m interested in?
- What can I do for fun?
- What kinds of students feel at home at this college?
Get answers. The best place to get an answer depends on the question. Here are some of the resources that can provide information:
- People who work at the college
- Current students at the college
- The college’s official website and its College Search profile
As you search for answers, it’s important to use only trustworthy sources of information and to recognize the difference between fact and opinion. A college’s official website and its admission officers are often the best sources of factual information about that college.
Visit — or revisit — the campuses. If possible, check out a college’s campus to get more information. If you can’t visit a campus, call or email the admission office with your questions. Ask if someone there can put you in touch with current students and recent graduates. Your high school counselor and teachers also may know students who graduated from your high school and now attend the college.
Think things over. You’ve done research and asked questions. Now it’s time to check your own thoughts and feelings. Ask yourself questions like these:
- How did I feel when I was on campus at each college I visited?
- Which colleges best match my list of must-haves?
- At which colleges can I imagine myself as successful and happy?
Compare the colleges. Use your new information to sort the colleges by what they offer and what you want. Make a list of the pros and cons for each college. You can also use College Search to compare up to three colleges side by side.
Compare Financial Aid Awards
This is an important step for many students. The Compare Your Aid Awards tool lets you compare up to four offers side by side. Talk to your family about which colleges work best financially. You should make decisions about financial aid, such as whether you should take a student loan or work-study job, together.
Make Your Decision
You don’t have to decide overnight. Many colleges don’t expect your final decision until May 1, so you have some time to make up your mind. But remember that colleges are serious about reply deadlines. If you don’t send your deposit in time, you risk losing your place.
Respond to the Colleges
Once you’ve decided which college you want to attend, inform all the colleges that accepted you about your decision.
Respond to the college you’ve decided to attend. Make sure to send in the following items by the deadline:
- Your acceptance letter
- A deposit
- A separate acceptance letter for financial aid, if required
- Any other required items
Respond to the colleges whose offers you’re declining. Send a brief note to the other colleges to thank them and turn down their offers. This frees up places for other students.