We are pleased to inform you/We regret to inform you….
It’s the season of college application outcomes, as students are beginning to hear back from the schools to which they applied. Should you receive more than one acceptance you have a hard decision to make, but there are ways of doing so rationally, and reducing the associated stress and angst.
First, if you did your homework and chose schools that are a good fit for you, know that your happiness doesn’t ride on making a particular choice. The majority of students will find a niche and have a good experience at a majority of schools. So take some pressure off on that score.
Second, go about gathering the facts and make a systematic comparison. On a sheet of paper list the pros, cons, and open questions about each of your accepting schools. If your dream is to major in business marketing and study abroad, evaluate the relative strengths of those programs (there are rankings and ratings online that are easy to access to help with this). If you visited, what did you think of the dorms at your schools?
Third, which school is offering the best financial deal? Don’t only consider the total amount of your financial aid package, but also consider some less obvious factors. Who is giving you the package with the highest amount of gift aid (money you don’t have to pay back, like grants and scholarships), and the lowest amount in loans? Look also at the renewability of your aid package over time; if your grades stay up will you get a similar package in successive years, or will it likely diminish in years two through four? If your award letter doesn’t address this you may need to call the financial aid office and ask questions.
It may be advisable at this point to visit your schools, if you haven’t already, or to make a second, more in-depth visit. Many schools have special visitation programs for accepted students. You may have an opportunity to spend the night on campus, visit a class, or meet professors and fellow students with similar interests. This can be an important thing to do, as your gut response to spending time on campus is a valid consideration as well.
Finally, what if the unthinkable has happened and you were wait listed at one or more schools, or rejected? If you were wait listed at a school that you have a strong desire to attend, let them know of your continued interest, but don’t rely on a positive response. Some of these schools will receive “no thanks” replies from some of their accepted students, and this may indeed open up a space for someone like you further down on the list. This is a great thing if it happens, but there are certainly no guarantees.
If you are facing the bleakest outcome – no acceptances at schools of genuine interest, this is a good time to regroup. Trust that you will, eventually, get into a school that you truly wish to attend. It may be a good opportunity to consider a gap year experience, which will further season you and potentially increase the interest of some colleges in you as an applicant. This may also be a good time to apply to a community college or less selective school with a later application deadline, which may also prove to be a cost savings. You may have better luck down the road as a transfer applicant.
Best of luck with your decision!