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Making the best choice between your acceptance offers

So you’ve received the reward of all your hard work in terms of multiple admission offers from universities, and now have to make your choice. Katherine Ernst Mehta advises you how in the second of a 12-part series on U.S. College Admissions 101.

You obsessively researched schools and built your school list. You woke up early on a Saturday to take your SAT or ACT. You edited your essays to perfection and submitted all of your applications on time.  Then you waited, and waited, and waited.

And now, finally, the payoff for all of that work – acceptance offers from universities.

Receiving multiple offers of admission can be both exciting and confusing.  How do you evaluate your different offers?  And how do you choose the school that’s the right fit for you?

Run the Numbers

Cost can be a significant factor for many students in deciding whether or not to attend.  Carefully evaluate each school’s cost of attendance, and any financial aid or scholarships you may have been offered.  If you cannot afford to attend without taking on significant loans, then it likely isn’t the right school for you.

However, don’t immediately look toward the least expensive option.  Instead, consider a school’s return on investment (ROI).  Some schools may be more expensive in the short term, but yield greater returns in future earning prospects.  There are many university rankings, including those by Forbes, Money magazine, and NPR’s “Planet Money” podcast, that focus on ROI in compiling their lists.

Talk to Current Students

Current students and alumni can provide a perspective that you won’t get from websites and glossy brochures. If you know any current students or alumni from the school, ask them about their college experience. What did they like most about their university?  What would they change?  Do they recommend that you attend?

If you don’t know any students who attend the university, then read through student blogs, or visit websites or forums where current students share their experiences.  Freshmen retention rates – the percentage of students who return after their first year – can also be a good indicator of overall student happiness.

Identify Your Goals and Priorities

Finally, think about what you most want to get out of your college experience, and try to identify which school might best help you achieve those goals.  For example, if your objective is to land a good job after graduation, you should consider a school’s job placement rate, its career services, and the strength of its alumni network. If you’re more interested in exploring several academic interests, look for schools with strong liberal arts or interdisciplinary options.  If contributing to cutting-edge research strikes your fancy, then consider a school’s research expenditure and facilities, and how accessible these facilities are to undergraduates.

While identifying these priorities may require some soul-searching, doing so now can help ensure that your next four years are well-spent at the school that’s the best fit for you.
 

Katherine Ernst Mehta is CEO and Founder of Edvanta Consulting, which works with international high-school students seeking admission to US universities. She first came from the US to India for research, and now lives in Delhi. You can reach her on Twitter at @EdvantaCo

You can read the first of Katherine Ernst Mehta’s 12-part series on college admissions in the US here.

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