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College Decision Time? Follow These Six Steps

For students and parents, the results of the college admissions process can be both exciting and painful.  There are the happy surprises at being accepted into the dream school. Or sadness and shock at not getting into that school that you ‘knew’ was a shoe-in.

Once all the acceptances, rejections, and deferments are tallied, the family is faced with thecollege decisions stark realization that now is the time to choose your future.  The May 1 deadline is only a few days away.

For some of my students, the choice was easy, as they got into their dream school.  For others, the college decision involves further analysis of the college’s programs, extra-curricular activities, and even a look at the predicted weather forecasts for the next year.

Some of my students and families based their decision solely on finances.  Still others agonize and second-guess their decisions.

“I don’t know, Mrs. Keilholtz.  You pick the school for me,”  said one of my students.

Although I won’t pick a college for any student, I can empathize with their dilemma.  Throughout the years, I’ve developed six tips that to reassure both students and families that they’ve made the decision:

1.  Don’t take it personally

 Remember, whether you’re crying tears of joy or sorrow about your college decision, you’re not defined by the institution that awards you your college degree.  Getting in doesn’t mean that you don’t still have to work hard and persevere.

And, not getting into a college doesn’t mean your dreams can’t become reality.  Take a deep breath and remember that you are loved by family and friends, and your desire to learn and grow hasn’t changed.  No matter what that letter says, you have survived a long and exhausting process of self-reflection. BRAVO!

college decisions2.  Choose between price and prestige

 A current college student at a prestigious school in Boston (you guess) recently told me:

“Although I love my school, I feel bad that my parents are paying so much for my education.  Some days my classes are a waste.  I feel like I could have learned the material at a state school for a fraction of the price.”

Before making your final decision, make sure you have a realistic idea of the amount, if any, of student loans you are going to need to graduate in four years.  If you will be struggling with student loans for decades after you graduate from an Ivy or equivalent, is it really worth it?  You are actually  paying for the prestige.

 3.  Visit the campus, again

Accepted student weekends are very important because they help in making your final college decisionscollege decision.  Also, financial aid officers are usually available to discuss different financial options and packages.

4.  Develop a PR strategy about your college plans

One of my students recently shared with me, “I think the most difficult part of this process has been the repeated questioning from teachers, my coach and other students.  

They wanted to know where I was accepted, how much money I got, and where I’ve decided to go.  I think the thing that hurts the most is having to tell them I’m not going to my dream school.”

I oftentimes counsel students not to tell anyone where they are applying for this very reason.  I know this is difficult but it will make rejections or even waitlist offers that much easier to take.

 5.  Celebrate

Whether your student got into their first choice or their fifth, celebrate with them.  Take them to dinner, make their favorite dessert, or take them to a movie.  Make sure they know that if they did not get into their first choice that you are disappointed FOR them, not disappointed IN them.  That’s a big difference.  Even 17- year -old children want their parents to be proud of them.

 6.  Make the most of your choice

 There are many pathways to success and happiness. Several years ago, one of my students decided to attend a small liberal arts college in North Carolina rather than one of the Ivy’s she was accepted to.

She really liked the small class size, the atmosphere, and the D2 sports teams.  I recently reconnected with her and she told me, “I can’t imagine not coming here.  I love everything about this school, including all of the opportunities it has brought to my life.” 

A great education is available at many schools, and is largely what you make of it and the work you put into it.

Best of luck to the Class of 2017, wherever you go to college!college decisions

For further information and to schedule a meeting, get in touch with me at 240-285-1920 or

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As always, I welcome your comments and questions.