What You Ought To Know About Choosing The Right College

March 29, 2016

High school seniors all over the world have been eagerly waiting to finally receive their college acceptance letters. Some may have already gotten more than one, while others are counting down the days till April 1st. Though you may have a dream school in mind, that doesn’t mean you should quickly rule out the other schools you were also accepted to. There are a number of things to look consider, like financial aid and the types of classes offered . Whatever the reasons are, if you’re struggling to decide where to commit, take some advice from our college users who have been through it all before:

Liberal Arts Colleges

798741280240737FB (Vassar College ‘19): I chose Vassar College because of its tight-knit community, open curriculum, and financial generosity. When I first visited, everyone was so nice and eager to help me answer my questions and make my decision. Furthermore, everyone was open and accepting of each other’s beliefs and differences. There are only 3 requirements in terms of courses and afterwards, I just need to fulfill major requirements while taking classes in subjects that interest me. Finally, I did not have any loans in my financial aid package due to Vassar’s commitment to meeting 100% demonstrated financial need.

dddominica: I fell in love with an all-women’s school for the camaraderie that it brings. There’s taboo out there about selecting a gender exclusive school, but I really feel that this small liberal arts school, complete with strong-willed and diverse students is someplace I want to belong. I spent countless nights researching statistics, reading up on current student’s blogs, and one fact about Smith that always came up was how friendly and inviting the population is. In addition, Smith College gave great financial aid, is surrounded by beautiful scenery, and guaranteed an amazing education. I used niche.com predominantly in making my college selection because it was too far away to visit! I made a list of pros and cons for each school, and while it finally came down to which was the best financial choice, I love Smith College.

West vs. East

alijetv (Stanford ‘19): I chose to attend Stanford because it is a university with the opportunities and quality of an ivy league school but without the ego. While everyone there is extremely intelligent and hard working, they don’t seem to take themselves too seriously and the competition between students does not seem as intense. Instead, Stanford stresses collaboration, especially interdisciplinary collaboration, instead of cutthroat competition. I was also sold by Stanford’s new commitment to the arts, as they seem to pouring a lot of money into their arts and humanities programs right now, and it seems that as a more humanities and arts centered student, I would be in the right place at the right time.

MPaike96: Choosing an early action/decision school was extremely difficult. My interests are varied, but I knew I wanted a school with: 1) a strong cognitive sciences program; 2) strong research; and 3) great humanities. This narrowed down my list to: MIT, Harvard, and Stanford. I nixed MIT because, despite my love for the campus and the (surprising) strength of its programs, I did not sense much of a humanities presence. To be fair, Harvard v. Stanford is comparing apples to oranges: Harvard has a (surprisingly) great computer science program, while Stanford has a (surprisingly) great philosophy program! Both schools also have excellent cognitive science interfaculty initiatives. I chose Harvard because I preferred Boston as a college town and I love changing seasons.

UC Schools

Amairani Rolon (UCLA ‘18): I had narrowed my options down to UC Berkeley and UCLA. I ultimately chose UCLA over Berkeley because of the location and the atmosphere. Coming from a small town I wanted to be in a big city, and experience something different to what I was used to. It is half an hour away from downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood. There is always something to do. Also, UCLA has that Southern California warm weather that I love and it is only twenty minutes away from the beach. Plus, it’s about two and a half hours away from home. I felt like this was a good distance, since I was far away from home to feel independent and close enough to go home when I needed or wanted to. In general, I also preferred the atmosphere UCLA.

GoBears: I ultimately decided to choose the University of California, Berkeley after doing extensive research of each school I was accepted to. I researched internship, research, and post-college opportunities for students of my majors (Business Administration and Computer Science) and analyzed which school topped the charts in these fields and had the characteristics of a university that I enjoyed. For example, one of the schools I was accepted to did not have any sports teams or sports programs and I was averse to selecting that school - even though it had a great Business Program - because I knew I wanted to go to a university that had the school spirit and sports culture. One of the main things about choosing a school to attend is that you pick a school that you know you will be happy at. Don’t choose a university just because “it is ranked really high” - you may end up hating your time in college.

To Ivy or not?

Andk: Before choosing Duke, I was stuck between Duke and Penn. Both schools are of equal esteem, so I decided to visit them to get a better idea of what I wanted. I ultimately chose Duke because I viewed the school as one giant community. Since Duke is situated in Durham, a somewhat bland city, students are on campus most of the time. This creates an environment where students live together, do homework together, go to classes together, and hang out together. Most of the social events are on campus or at venues within walking distance of campus, rather than at far-off bars and clubs in the city. At Penn, the city of Philadelphia offers so many exciting places to visit that students often stray from the campus on weekends, making the community feel less unified than at Duke. I chose Duke because I valued strong solidarity and community among students over living in an exciting city. For other people, the opposite may be true. 

Another selling point was the fact that Duke shines in basketball. At Duke, you can get the academic experience of an Ivy League with the sports experience of a state university. Duke is one of the few top schools with a thriving school spirit, due in large part to its basketball team. 

Lastly, I felt that Duke would give me more freedom in choosing my courses, major, and minor as my interests evolved. I applied to Duke for Mechanical Engineering, but discovered during my first semester of freshman year that I was more interested in economics and finance. I was allowed to take several economics courses and zero engineering courses, despite the fact that I was enrolled at the engineering school until the end of the school year. Switching out of the engineering school at Duke was easy and painless; all I was required to do was meet with a dean and fill out a simple online form. At Penn, I would have been more confined to the engineering school. If I had wanted to switch to the business school, there would have been a rigorous application process. Additionally, I would have only been able to take a certain number of courses from the business school. At Duke, you can take whatever courses you want, permitting that the schedule for your major can fit them. 

Buttsc: Having already discussed my post-undergraduate plans, my ultimate choice related strongly to this plan. I talked to everyone who’s opinion I value the most and the quote I heard the most was that I “can’t go wrong either way” once I had narrowed it down to two choices. As I already said, I did not choose until the day before the deadline so clearly I had an incredibly hard time. It just made it even harder when my two best friends had committed to the two choices I narrowed down to. It made me feel like I had to choose one friend over another. 

To get on with how I chose, once I felt like I had exhausted all of my resources, I asked a friend who I never thought to ask. My friend had an older sister and older brother who had been through extensive education and knew a lot about different universities. After having talked to my friend’s older sister, she enforced the fact that it’s much harder to attain a strong economic and quantitative background in grad school than it would be to attain the international side of my interests. To go along with this, she also reinforced something in my mind that the school I would not be choosing has an amazing law school and an amazing program that would be ideal for my passion while the undergraduate opportunities at the school I would choosing are nearly limitless. If I had not talked to my friend’s sister, I might still be choosing today or I may even be at home convincing myself that no choice was the right choice. In the end, your personal feelings matter most, but to have someone to consult is always extremely helpful. 

College is where you’ll spend 4 years of your life learning, developing critical skill sets, and expanding your social circle. Make sure you choose the school that is the right fit for you because a shiny title is not a guarantee of success or of a fulfilling college career. Make an informed choice by talking to current students on our mentorship platform. Access 60,000+ successful college application files uploaded by college students (they get paid when you view them). AdmitSee is a community of students helping students. Our goal is to bring much-needed transparency to higher education. 

About The Author

Frances Wong
Frances Wong

Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.


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Accepted to Duke, UT Austin, GA Tech, Washington, Arizona

I am a normal person: I promise. I am a big sports fan who will be attending Duke to watch basketball (and hopefully graduate with an economics degree).

Accepted to Stanford, UCLA, UChicago, UC Berkeley, UCSB

Excited to help!

Accepted to Harvard, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Georgetown, Davidson, Santa Clara, UVA

I'm a caring, bubbly person who's passionate about learning and ambitious in life.
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Accepted to UC Berkeley, UCSD, UC Irvine, UCSB, UCSC, CSULB, San Jose State, SDSU, Cal Poly, San Diego, U San Fran, Emerson

A first-generation student expected to attend UC Berkeley planning to major in Media Studies and minor in Journalism.

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