When I worked in admissions, the only thing that got me through countless admitted student events all spring was the countdown to one thing: MAY 1. Now that I’m on the high school side, I don’t have that same feeling of, “Can May 1 hurry up and get here already so I can have a break to get my suits dry cleaned/get home from work before 9pm/have one day to just sit at my desk and stare at my computer in peace?”
It’s hard to see the agony some seniors put themselves through as they struggle to decide where to commit to attending for the next four years. Some students heard from a specific college and put down the deposit right away; others were denied at their top college and can’t imagine going to college anywhere else; and still others are seemingly in complete limbo. Most of the students coming by my office these days have endless questions about comparing financial aid awards, which housing option to apply for, how to decide where to go, and many other questions that are equally complex. There’s also the juggling act of what the parent wants and what the student wants and how to appease them both — if that’s even possible.
To me, this feels like the high stakes part of the job, mainly because I’ve only ever made the decision of where to attend college once for myself, so I don’t feel that I have a lot of experience on which to base my opinions. Even so, I keep going back to my own experience as a way to sympathize with students. I, too, felt tormented by making such a monumental decision as a mere teenager and I remember the long discussions, the many tears, and the last minute campus visits throughout the month of April. I can’t honestly pinpoint what helped me make my final decision, but on April 28, something clicked and I knew which college felt more “right” for me and went for it. Luckily, it worked out. But, beyond showing students I understand how much making this final decision really sucks, what else can I offer besides nudging them to visit the campus if possible, to talk to current students, to do more research, to compare financial aid packages, to make a pros and cons list, etc.?
I don’t think there’s a right way to pick a college that works for everyone. Beyond exploring every way of looking at the decision and their specific options, I feel like one of the best things a student can do is use this time wisely to reflect, think, analyze, discuss, connect, and do whatever else they need to in the weeks leading up to May 1.
Godspeed to my friends on the college side as they meet eager students and families day after day—I hope that after all the late nights and numerous events, you hit your projected yield right on the money. And to my comrades on the high school side, continue to support your students and families and reassure them as best you can. And when you think there’s no end in sight, May 1 is only 20 days away!