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How To Narrow Down Your List Of Colleges During Senior Year


If you're lucky enough to hold a pile of acceptance letters in your hand, congrats! Each college can bring thrilling opportunities and prepare you for your future, but there's just one problem... you can only pick one. Maybe you have a clear front-runner and the decision to enroll couldn't be easier. But maybe you, like so many other pre-collegiettes, are stuck between two, three, or even more schools. Here's how to narrow down your list to find your future home.

1. Visit!

You might have grown up dreaming about attending your mom's alma mater, but what happens when you visit campus for the first time and hate it? Alternatively, a school that seemed totally blah on paper might end up feeling like home. That's why college tours are so important – they can completely change the way you view a school, knock it off your list, or solidify it as your top choice.

Try to schedule visits on regular class days (as opposed to weekends or during exam periods) and make sure to ask tons of questions while on campus. When you're stuck between just two or three choices, a visit might make all the difference in your decision. Check out our list of seven factors to pay attention to on college tours.

If you can't visit, try the next best thing: HC's Complete College Guide. With input from real students at more than 80 schools across the country, you can learn about academics, the social scene, housing, and more without leaving your living room.

2. Attend Accepted Students' Events

Some schools offer special events during the spring for accepted students. Whether it's a mixer at an alum's house or a big reception on campus, these events are designed for you to meet other Class of '18ers and decide if the school is the right fit for you.

At the event, take mental notes about how you fit in with the other prospective students. Maybe you stumble across your future soulmate and bond over an obsessive love of college basketball, or maybe you're itching to get away from the event and hang out with your normal friends. Either way, that reaction can help you narrow down your choices.

3. Look at the price tag

Once you've received your financial aid packages, sit down with whoever's paying for college to look over your options. If you love two schools equally, it may be worth opting for the in-state public school with the more manageable price tag instead of the $55k private school that will have you drowning in loans for years to come. But don't just stop the financial aid discussion after receiving your aid packages – you can often appeal financial aid packages to get a better price. Often times, schools will match what any other other school is offering you.

Even beyond the sticker price of a school, there are other factors to consider when paying for college. Look into work-study jobs and student loans. It's possible that the more expensive school might actually wind up saving you money over the cheaper school in the long run!

4. Consider your major

If you have a major or even a general field of study in mind, that can help narrow down your options enormously. Research the departments you're interested in at each school on your list and see how they stack up against each other. Does one school have a significantly better reputation for its business major than another school? (Talk to your guidance counselor or check out the message boards on College Confidential to compare schools.) Are you sure you want to major in English at a school that's geared towards science majors? Keep in mind that your desired major may change, but if you're seton majoring something pre-professional, like pre-med or pre-business, a school with a heavy liberal arts focus might not be your favorite choice. College should be first and foremost about academics – so consider them carefully before you make a decision!

5. Flip a coin

No one would ever tell you to pick a school based on something as silly as a coin toss. But flipping a coin can help reveal how you really feel about a decision. First, label each side of the coin. Let's say heads means you'll go to College A and tails means you'll go to College B. Flip the coin in the air and don't try to influence the outcome.

Let's say you get heads – College A. Are you disappointed? Relieved? Regardless of the outcome, you might get some insight into how you're really feeling. You might have a preference and not even realize it!


Still stuck?You have until May 1st to decide. Good luck with your decision!

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