Making College Decisions
by Christine Whyde, staff writer
APRIL 2021 – The first week of April is an exciting time for most college-bound high school seniors in the United States. It is during this time that most colleges and universities will be releasing admissions decisions online and through the mail, as many require students to make their final commitments by May 1.
Acceptance letters will make it clear whether or not a prospective student has been accepted into the institution. If accepted, the letter will go on to explain how to move forward if the student plans to attend the institution. It is important to keep an eye out for any deadlines listed within the letter, such as a final date to make a decision on acceptance. It is also possible that, depending on the university, a student may be waitlisted for the time being as other accepted students make their final decision. If this is the case, the letter should make it clear how the student is to proceed.
If a student has not been accepted, there is no need to fret. Not every applicant can be accepted, so it is inevitable that some students will receive a rejection letter or two. Some of the most famous people in the world have been rejected by their dream universities or chose not to attend at all, including Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, President Harry S. Truman, and Warren Buffett. In the event that a student has been rejected from each institution they have applied to, or has chosen not to apply at all, there is always time to reapply in the future.
Those that plan on attending a college or university have many decisions to make within the next month. These decisions are especially complicated if the student has been accepted into multiple institutions. An article by US News recommends that prospective students consider enrollment size at the institution, the location, the majors and programs offered, and opportunities outside of the classroom. The article also suggests that students consider college ranking lists if they are interested in a more competitive program.
Ideally, students should start considering what type of college they plan to attend early on. At Bio-Med Science Academy, there are multiple staff members available to help you make those decisions. One such person is counselor Stephanie Hammond. While students navigate their four years at the Upper Academy, Ms. Hammond works to provide information on volunteer, scholarship, and college information and opportunities.
When asked about her biggest advice to students regarding the college decision process, she stated: “It is so important to start thinking about college, visiting colleges, and talking with parents/guardians early! Sophomore, junior, and the beginning of senior year is a great time to start exploring and asking questions, visiting schools, and exposing oneself to all different kinds of schools. From large state institutions to small private ones, see as many as you can and talk to as many people as possible. There is already so much going on senior year that this doesn’t have to be an added stressor.”
Luckily, Bio-Med students have the opportunity to start thinking about their future without leaving the classroom. In the College and Career Preparedness course, instructor Whitney Mihalik teaches students how to pursue not only college decisions but also most aspects of life after high school.
When asked about the most important factors to consider when comparing multiple institutions, Mihalik referenced the content of her course: “As we discuss in my class, student loans can make post-college life very difficult, so for many students I usually encourage them to have the total cost of their education be a deciding factor. However, I don’t believe it should be the only factor for any student…Location is something that I believe is very important, in terms of distance from home, but also the type of setting the school is in. If a student is living on campus, a school only thirty minutes away from home can feel more like hours away. Also, many of our students have grown up in rural areas, so urban colleges seem appealing. However, it’s good to determine whether you would feel comfortable in a city setting for a prolonged time period, or if it’s really somewhere you just like visiting.” She was also sure to point out that these factors will vary from student to student, and some may not need to consider them at all given their circumstances.
If a student can absolutely not decide between multiple colleges, even after comparing multiple factors, Hammond says financial aid is the best place to start.
Even if a student has only applied to one institution, it is important to be certain that higher education is the right choice for them before making any commitments. It is also expected that students in this situation have done a considerable amount of research into their institution of choice, as they have eliminated other options. If a student in this situation has not done this, it may be a sign that they have applied for the wrong reasons.
Only applying to one college herself, Mihalik explained, “All students should be determining first that college is the right move for them at this moment. Data shows us that many students go to college because it’s an expectation after high school rather than because it’s the right move for their long-term career and life goals.”
Hammond also suggests that students consider their previous school experience: “I always encourage students to think about what made them successful in school. What about the environment contributed to their success? Now translate that to college.” A student may be surprised to find that a college does not offer those same opportunities and even that they may be offered somewhere entirely different.
Going to college is not for everyone. One of the ways a student might discover this is through an in person visit to campus, which is highly encouraged by Mihalik. She stated, “Something else would be to consider the student body and whether you think you would feel comfortable with them. This is where visiting a college can be helpful. If you want a diverse student population, see if you can find the college’s data regarding the makeup of their student body. If it’s not as diverse as you were hoping, see what opportunities there are for growth and determine if that helps in your decision.” She also made sure to clarify that not every student will share the same experience during their college search.
Unfortunately, many seniors were unable to make these visits this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. In a normal year, this would be a requirement during Mihalik’s course for Bio-Med juniors. Students can learn a bit more about colleges of interest at home with a simple news search. If the institution has mostly negative stories about issues that matter greatly to a student, it may be a sign that the college is not the right fit.
Mihalik offered a final piece of advice for the class of 2021: “The biggest thing I would hope all seniors know is that this is a big decision, but it is not and will not be the biggest decision you make in your life. And it’s not a permanent one. If you make a decision and feel later that it’s the wrong one, you always have options. I also always want students to be making the best decision for themselves, not for the world, their school, or their parents. You have to think about what you want for your future, not what others want or expect. Make your decision with significant research and critical thought, but make the decision that will lead to your success and happiness, even if it doesn’t align with someone else’s dream for you.”
No matter the circumstance, each student considering college has a lot to consider in such a short amount of time. It is undoubtable that this process can be very overwhelming and confusing. Regardless of their decisions, whether they pursue further education, a year of self discovery, or go straight into the workforce, the class of 2021 can be proud of how far they have come.