Seniors: Choose your College in 3 Easy Steps


It’s spring semester senior year. You’re exhausted, elated, anxious, overwhelmed, floored, or any combination thereof. You have your acceptance emails in your inbox. You also have the rejection and waitlist letters in the same inbox.

But for now, you have to put aside the pain of waitlists and rejections because it’s time to decide where you want to go based on your available options. (And if you want to get off the waitlist, read this.)

Here are the steps you can follow to decide where you want to go.

Step 1: Be realistic about the money. With your acceptance, you also have received a financial aid package. Be realistic, does your family have enough to pay for your top-choice college? If not, do you know what kind of responsibility you have to take on if you choose to take on debt after graduation? This could mean choosing a different job or career path after school than you would ideally like. When calculating the cost, make sure you take into account all expenses—including cost of living and transportation to and from campus.

Step 2. Remember your values and goals. In order to determine the right schools that match you, you first need to evaluate your own values. All of these ways can be used to know yourself and your values better:

  • Take strengths self-assessments, such as the VIA Survey of Strengths (Free, but requires login). Self-assessments allow you to identify your strengths, skill gaps, and revisit your college goals.
  • Interview current students of this college. This information will help you to better understand the college’s culture and the potential fit with your goals and preferences.  
  • Look for career outcomes information on the college’s career services site to see if your interested careers are well-represented among graduates.

Step 3: Visit the Accepted Students Day and note how accepted students are treated. Each college has an opportunity for you to assess your comfort with attending with “accepted students day” events. At these visits, be critical about how much effort the college puts into making accepted students feel welcome. If you’re noticing a tendency by the college to ignore your emails and phone calls, don’t be surprised if you can’t find the resources you need when you get to campus (this is a problem at some larger universities where resources for personalized attention are scarce).

Finally, don’t rush to reply to the college until closer to the deadline so that you can take a few weeks and make the decision that’s right for you. Only when you have gathered enough information about the finances and campus culture will you have enough information to make a final decision.

Hi! Dr. Aviva Legatt here. I am a college admissions expert and coach. I have helped hundreds of students get admitted to their top-choice college.

As a college admissions expert, I am frequently quoted in the press, including Business Insider, Reader's Digest, BusinessBecause, ZenDesk, and GenHERation.

With my experience serving on the freshman and transfer admissions committees for Wharton and as past director of Wharton's Leadership in the Business World, I have unique insight that is not readily available to other college admissions experts, students, and parents.

I do this work because I am passionate about helping students to understand what they bring to a college, and how colleges are motivated to admit or deny students. This insight, my friends, is ultimately how you find the right strategy to stand out in a very competitive applicant pool.

Let's work together to make you look as good on paper as you do in real life!