A High School Senior's Advice on Picking the Right College

What if you’ve gotten multiple acceptances and can’t decide where to send that one deposit check?

Jessica Iori
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Jessica Iori, a senior at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, N.Y., must be feeling a wee bit overwhelmed right now. She applied to 15 schools (and dropped more than $1,000 in the process) and so far has heard back from 10. The verdict: Eight acceptances and two deferrals. And those are mostly from the schools she applied to through early or rolling admissions. She will start hearing back from her regular-admissions colleges—which include Boston University, George Washington University, and Trinity College—early next month. 

So if there is anyone who can offer solid advice on how to weigh your options when considering multiple college acceptances, it would probably be her. 

You applied to eight schools early, and you were admitted at six of them. I hope all those acceptances are nonbinding.


Yes, they are. Sometimes it's more competitive applying early, but I wanted to feel like I had already applied to some schools and had some options.  Do you have a first choice at this point?


No. I don't really want to have a first choice until I know where I've gotten in and what I can afford financially. I don't want to get my hopes up for a school and end up not being able to go there. I'm just trying to give myself as many options as possible and then see which one is the best fit for me after I get in.  So, how will you make your decision?


Money is certainly an issue. The first thing I really need to make sure of is price. I'm waiting until my parents tell me I can go to a school before I can even consider it.  Does that mean your parents already gave you the OK for the 15 schools you applied to?


No. We want to see what kind of financial aid I get, especially for the more expensive schools. I've gotten a few financial aid packages so far from some of the schools I applied early to.  Why did you choose the schools that you did?


I applied to city schools such as Northeastern and Boston University but also schools like Elon University and James Madison University, which can feel like they're in the middle of nowhere. I guess I'm toying with both ideas. I live in the suburbs, so I'm used to that. And my [high] school is pretty big; it's almost like a college campus. I like that kind of feel, but at the same time I've always been interested in living in a city.  I'm also looking at the academic programs at each school. I'm more interested in liberal arts and humanities. I'm not really a math person. 

Thirdly, I'm going to look hard at club sports and athletic facilities on campus. Right now I'm on the soccer team, and I'm captain of the lacrosse team. So I'd probably want to stay active in those sports. 

What advice would you give to other students who might be having a hard time deciding where to go?


Definitely visit the school. When I visited James Madison, I really liked the vibe that I got. When I first started the process, I had no idea what I wanted. And I think little by little, things started to fall into place. If you visit the school more than once, you see one aspect that you really like, and then maybe later you'll see another that you don't. It helps you pick up on the little things.  I would also recommend that you think about what you like about high school. I keep thinking about how I can bring that into my college experience and what I would want to change. But try to combine that with new opportunities to explore, of course. 

So a second visit is critical, especially with an acceptance letter in hand?


Definitely. I visited JMU in the fall on a Sunday, and it was completely empty. I could see that the buildings were nice and all, but there was practically no one on campus. And then I went back a few weeks ago, and it was completely different. There were people around everywhere, and they were really cheering on the acceptees. I think it's a different environment when you are an accepted student going to visit the school. I think people are more welcoming and they really want to make sure you have a good time there.  If students are on the fence, what is one element they should not base their decisions on?