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April 4, 2012 / NextStepU

You got into college, now what?

By Jolyn Brand, Brand College Consulting

Many seniors are getting college acceptance letters and emails this time of year.  Once you have heard from the majority of colleges you applied to, it’s time to make a selection. Many students think this will be an easy decision: just go to your “top pick”. But what if your #1 choice college doesn’t offer you as much financial aid as your #2 school? What if one of your other choices has a great summer abroad program?

Here are some guidelines to help you (and your parents) decide on the best option.

Students should take their time
Breathe! Students generally have several months before deadline to commit. Don’t rush it and accept early, especially if there are still some colleges you haven’t heard from.

You should make a list. I know, I know, it’s a little nerdy, but you want to make sure that your college of choice aligns with your wants, needs and expectations. Put your priorities at the top, whether those are a great engineering school, the most financial aid, or cool dorms. Then list everything else that’s important to you and rank the schools by that list. You will often see a “winner” pretty quickly.

Do some research
Find out more about the financial aid packets and awards. Run the numbers: how much will it really cost you to attend? And factor in costs that aren’t found in the letters. Can you find a part-time job near this school? How much will it cost for you to go home for holidays and the summer?

You should check factors you may not have considered yet: Is the campus safe? What types of campus events are scheduled? Does the university accept your AP or IB credits? What do students do for fun on campus, and does that align with your interests?

Remember that once you are an accepted student, the college wants you. Ask questions that will help you make a decision and ultimately make you more comfortable and successful at your chosen college.

Jolyn Brand is one of the nation’s top experts in the field of college admission guidance. A certified teacher with a Master’s degree in Education, Mrs. Brand has been in the field for more than 10 years, first as an English teacher for the public schools, then as a college instructor and as a district program manager in Houston. She is the CEO of Brand College Consulting, an independent college counseling and test preparation firm in Houston, Texas.

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