Ask An Expert: Where should you apply? Trust your gut!

August 06, 2014

This week’s Wednesday expert advice from Joie Jager-Hyman of College Prep 360 answers:

What are some of the most overlooked factors when choosing which colleges to apply to?

In the course of advising hundreds of students on choosing colleges that will allow them to thrive, I have done a great deal of reading in behavioral economics on the topic of decision making. Namely, how do we make decisions? And, more importantly, how do we make good decisions?

Decision-making has two components: rational and emotional. Let’s take the decision to buy the shirt that you are wearing today. When you went shopping for the shirt, you probably considered the “rational” things first: cost, functionality (whether it is will be appropriate for warm or cold weather), comfort, size, etc. Say you settled on a $20 cotton t-shirt. There are lots of shirts that fit these standards. Something else made you chose the particular shirt you are wearing.

Enter your emotions. Some people call this the “gut instinct.” Without your gut—without that inexplicable instinct that drew you to your shirt—you would never be able to make any decisions about anything.

When it comes to college, the rational component includes things like size, location, cost, prestige, type of major, etc. But what about how a college makes you feel? Do you feel inspired when you are there? Empowered? Successful? Energized? Smart? If so, this is a place you can be happy.

Over the years, almost all the students I work with end up happy at the colleges in which they enroll. The only ones who ever have regrets are those who didn’t listen to their guts. They went for the brand name school in Vermont even though they hate the cold or they listened to their parents and applied to an engineering school even though they wanted to write.

There’s a reason that “trust your gut” is cliché advice. You need both reason and emotion to make good decisions!

Have a question you’d like answered for next week? Submit it HERE on our Contact Us page with the heading “Ask An Expert” in the message box! Read our blog posts discussing factors to consider, what our Admits looked for in a university, and how family members and advisors can help you in your decision.

LAST WEEK’S EXPERT POST: How much weight is put on the SAT and GPA?



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Williams ‘19


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Hi! I go by Izi and I am a current student at Williams College Class of 2019. I hope to be a biology or sociology major with a neuroscience concentration. I am on the NCAA Division 1 alpine ski team here.
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Hey! I'm a freshman at University of Rochester Class of 2020 interested in double majoring in Biology and Spanish, eventually applying to med school. I'm passionate about studying science, doing research and learning new languages.
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Accepted to Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, UPenn, Pomona, Williams, Amherst, Claremont (CMC), Northwestern, Vanderbilt, USC, JHU, UC Berkeley, UT Austin, UNC, Tulane, UMich, Georgetown

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