By now, you have likely received most decisions from the colleges to which you applied, and you will need to make your final decision by May 1. After months of waiting, finally the choice is yours; the ball is in your court. Unfortunately, you only have a month to make your decision. While I can't say that I personally had this experience because I applied to Cornell during the Early Decision round, many of my peers had to choose between several colleges in April.
The choice may be very easy in one scenario: you had a clear favorite and received an acceptance letter from that institution. However, if you are similar to many students who either had not picked one favorite college, or received less favorable news from your dream school, then you have some thinking to do.
So, how will you choose your final destination? You have done the hard work and this month should be the most exciting of them all. Do not allow yourself to feel so overwhelmed that it overpowers the joy and importance of four short weeks.
If possible, schedule another visit to the colleges you are most strongly considering. One of my friends visited three different schools within the span of one week! She was lucky enough to get into almost all of her top options. Many universities have special programs for high school seniors who are admitted so they can visit campus, stay overnight in a dorm with current students, and attend some classes. For example, Cornell has a program called Cornell Days where accepted seniors can attend informational sessions geared towards their specific undergraduate college. There are also options to stay overnight with current students and go to A Capella concerts and other campus events. Be sure to talk to students and ask questions about what life is really like at the college. Remember, the pressure is off of you now—the colleges need to convince you why you should attend. Find out what students do not like about campus, and how difficult it is to register for classes. The goal here is to get the insider scoop so that you can weigh all your options. If you are unable to visit the school in person, another way to learn more about your top choices is to reach out to local alumni who can speak about their experiences.
When you read about the schools, be careful not to weigh heavily its ranking; it is critical to find the right fit for a school almost regardless of how highly it is ranked. Remember that college rankings can be misleading and your own analysis will likely prove more useful when deciding what will be best for you. Above all else, you need to feel comfortable about where you will call home for the next four years. What is most important to you? Class size? Demographics? Location? Quality of food? Greek Life? You should also consider the total cost of attending each college, taking into account any financial aid. For many of my friends, this was the ultimate deciding factor, especially if they received substantial merit money from certain colleges. Look at where you will live as a freshman on each campus and study the dorm options and meal plans—all of these factors may play a role in your final decision. It sounds so simple, but your gut instinct is often the best choice because you know yourself better than anyone else. Throughout this whole process, you should always go with your gut. If something strikes you as peculiar on campus, that is legitimate; don't ignore the voice inside your head.