By Douglas Fehlen
1. Take your time.
First things first: You don't have to make a decision right away. Most colleges give you until May 1st to accept your placement in their freshman class. Even if you're leaning strongly in one direction, give yourself some time to make a final decision on a school.
2. Examine actual costs.
Financial aid packages from competing schools may not offer apples to apples comparisons. If you have questions about how much a school will actually cost, don't hesitate to follow-up with an institution. Remember that cost of living differences between college locales could also affect net out-of-pocket expenses.
3. Visit schools you're seriously considering.
You likely visited the colleges you're now considering before you chose to apply. But that was before you knew you were accepted. Now that you know you're in, visit schools you're interested in again. Your new perspective can help you to more carefully think through what it will actually be like to attend a given school.
4. Connect with professors.
If possible, meet with people who will have a role in your studies. You might talk with a department head or key professors in the discipline you plan to study. Get more information on academic programs and see how you like instructors. If a meeting isn't possible, connect with faculty members by phone or e-mail.
5. Consider available clubs and other extracurricular activities.
Academics are important, but they only make up part of the college experience. Student clubs, sports opportunities and other extracurricular activities might help tip the balance in one school's favor - particularly if you believe institutions are pretty evenly matched when it comes to academic programs.
6. Consider environment.
Another potential tie-breaker: The campus environment. This can include a wide range of factors, such as location and school size. Think about where you'll feel most comfortable studying for nine months out of the year, be that a large urban campus or a more intimate college setting in smaller city.
7. Look past prestige.
Being able to say you're a graduate of Harvard or Yale definitely has benefits, but don't base your decision on name recognition alone. College admissions experts emphasize that fit should be the most significant factor in choosing a school. If you get into Harvard or Yale, you can say no if a school doesn't feel right for you.
8. Connect with other freshmen.
Once you're accepted into a college, you'll likely be able to contact other freshmen set to arrive on campus in the fall. School officials may encourage you to get to know peers through a college-created Facebook page. Getting to know people you'll be attending classes with at a school could aid in your decision.
9. Hear what others have to say.
Other people have experienced the uncertainty you're going through, and they may be able to help. Consult parents, graduated siblings, older friends and others you know. Ask counselors and teachers what they think is most important to consider. It's your choice, but that doesn't mean you can't get help.
10. Don't freak out.
It's actually pretty great that you're in a position to attend more than one quality school. Making a decision can be stressful, but try to keep your perspective. You can't know how a decision will work out. But if you thoughtfully consider your options, you can at least have confidence in your judgment.
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