Welcome to the end of college decision season! You made it! But the hardest part, for regular decision students, is happening now. You have your decisions back, now how do you choose? I remember overthinking my college choice to death: I would dream about it, wake up and talk it over with my parents at breakfast, and then spend the rest of the day pouring over college websites.
And on top of all that, I made my decision virtually, at the very start of the pandemic in 2020. I wasn’t able to tour many of the schools I was considering, couldn’t attend admitted students day events, and had no way to even walk around a lot of campuses. Around the country, things have changed a bit since then, but for many reasons a lot of students are still making this decision virtually. As someone who made it through decision season virtually, and ended up somewhere I absolutely adore, here are my best tips to find your best fit.
Think… inside the box? That sounds bad, but I promise this is going somewhere. As you start looking at your decisions, I think it’s important to have a realistic conversation first before you let yourself go too far down the road of visualizing your dream school and your dream life. My conversation looked like pulling out all my financial aid packages, and having my family help me decide which schools we could realistically afford. Your conversation might look different, but as a general recommendation, talking over your choices with a trusted friend or family member to rule some schools out on non-negotiables is a good first move. Some non-negotiables may be things like merit/financial aid offered to you, travel cost to get home for breaks, academic offerings at a school, cost of living in a city if you wouldn’t be living on campus, etc. This can be really tough, and it’s the least fun tip on this list. But understanding what your limits are is very important, and will save you from the hurt of dreaming of something, and then realizing that it isn’t realistic for you.
Pull out those instagram stalking skills. The #1 thing I couldn’t see well from websites or campus pictures was the ~student vibe~ around campus. How did students dress? What did their weekends look like? What kind of events were they attending? To investigate, I became a big fan of the instagram search bar. Check out accounts for student clubs, societies, dining halls, and events committees to get a feel for the campus vibe from a student perspective. Also, if you know people who attend a school you’re interested in, look them up! Look at their friends’ accounts! All of these together helped me make a mental picture of student life that wasn’t just limited to what is on the website.
Talk to other admitted students as you are both deciding. Though it may seem weird to meet someone through being accepted to one school, and then talk about going elsewhere, it can be really nice to get other perspectives from people making similar decisions to you. It’s interesting to ask what is making them really want to attend a school, or what is making them hesitate. Maybe it will be things you have never even thought about, but could sway your decision. Collaboration is your best friend in this situation. One of the best pieces of college decision advice I got was through one of these conversations, which leads me to…
Play pretend! If you are really stuck between two schools, like I was, play pretend for a few days. On one day, pretend you put down the deposit and chose school A, and on the next day do the same for school B. See what feelings arise each day. In my case, I was looking at a school further from home than Scripps is for me. I had always wanted to attend a school across the country, but on the day I was pretending I had decided to attend that school, I was incredibly anxious about being so far away. This was an entirely new worry I didn’t think I had, and it helped in my decision. Sometimes faking things for a day reveals things you wouldn’t have thought of before.
The obvious tip that you’re already doing…. Use the resources!! This blog, the Scripps website, our virtual campus tour, our instagram account, the student ambassador emails, and admissions officers are all here to help you. Each school has tons of resources like these just waiting to be read through. Look at course catalogs, ask questions, and listen to all the advice you want.
Whatever decision you make, you will make the best of it. At the end of the day, the perfect college experience isn’t about the specific school, it’s about how you make your college years fun. Though making this choice virtually may feel harder, you have a lot of options to learn about your choices, and I hope that these tips have helped a bit! Please feel free to contact me for any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.