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College Selection: YOUR Final Choice

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 short time 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 as you make this important choice! Do not allow yourself to feel so overwhelmed that it overpowers the joy and importance of your accomplishments.

At this time, scheduling another visit to the colleges you are most strongly considering will not be an option in light of campus closures due to COVID-19. While it's disappointing to miss the special admitted student programs for high school seniors, you should take advantage of all available online resources and try to get as much information as possible. Universities are offering numerous options to connect virtually, and though it's not the same, it's the best opportunity right now to get a "glimpse" of what life at a school would be like. Remember, the pressure is off of you now—the colleges need to convince you why you should attend. Connect with students and find out what they do/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. Since 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. Investigate where you might 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, that is legitimate; don't ignore the voice inside your head.

*Many schools are postponing enrollment dates to June 1 due to COVID-19

**Amanda Madenberg, author, is a senior at Cornell University, Class of 2020

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