As a prospective graduate school student, you were in the driver's seat when deciding where you would apply. Once you submitted your applications, you turned the wheel over to the institutions and admissions committees.
Now that you have been admitted, you are once again in the driver's seat. You get to decide whether to accept the offer.
Last week we discussed seven ways students should respond after being admitted to graduate school, but there's another important thing you can do if you're struggling to decide between schools: Create a "comparison shopping" spreadsheet.
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Remember the spreadsheet you created when initially investigating various graduate school options? Now is a good time to expand it or create a new spreadsheet. You might use some of the following as your evaluation questions.
• Was I notified of my admission when the admissions office said I would be?
• How soon after I was admitted did I receive another contact from the institution?
• Did a student or alumnus call me to offer congratulations and to offer help?
• How often am I being contacted? It is too much? Too little?
• How long did it take me to get an estimated annual budget?
• How much information am I receiving about courses or programs of study?
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• What did I think of my post-admission campus visit?
• How friendly or helpful have the faculty, staff, and students been since I was admitted?
• Is the information I am receiving really helpful to me?
• If I am coming with a spouse or partner, or with family, how accommodating and inclusive is the institution?
As you did before, put the names of the institutions to which you have been admitted on the left hand column of your spreadsheet and your various evaluation questions across the top. Give each institution a grade for each item. As you do this, you will start seeing some themes emerge.
You might be thinking, "Does this really make a difference in my final enrollment decision?" The answer is yes. When I served as dean of admissions, we invited admitted students to come to visit campus for the weekend. Nine times out of ten, these admits were deciding between several admission offers.
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This is a very good time to evaluate how you are treated. Does the admitted student follow-up experience make you feel wanted, included and well informed? Is the pre-enrollment process informative, efficient, and welcoming? If so, great. If not, perhaps you need to think more seriously about submitting your deposit.
Remember, this is your graduate education. It is your time, energy, financial resources, and career that is most important. Others may have input for you, but in the end, you need to attend the institution you believe is best for you. If you have done your homework, taken time to do some comparison shopping, and honestly evaluated each program, in most cases the best choice for you will become clear. Follow your inner wisdom and make the enrollment deposit.
Each year while I was at University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, students attending the school's weekend for admitted students came up to me with their enrollment deposit checks in hand. As they gave me the checks, they typically said something along these lines: "Chicago Booth was one of several options for me, and to be honest, it was not my first choice—that is, until now. The treatment I have received since being admitted, coupled with this weekend, has caused Booth to rise to the top on my list. I look forward to seeing you in the fall!"