As higher education advisors continue encouraging high school students to apply to between six and 10 colleges if they want the best chance of being accepted somewhere, it should come as no surprise that many learners receive multiple offer letters. According to a 2017 survey of 17,000 high school students, about one-third of students received offer letters to five or more schools, while 6 percent received offers from 10 institutions. Sifting through options to find the best academic and personal fit can feel overwhelming, but this guide exists to help walk students through the process, provide expert advice and answer common questions.
Choosing the right college need not feel overwhelming if students take a clearheaded and practical approach. In this section, our experts provide a range of helpful tools to help students confidently make their decisions.
According to University of Pennsylvania interviewer Amber Jin, students can set themselves up for success by finding schools that truly fit their needs. “Understand what opportunities exist for your field of study, including faculty, undergraduate classes and research opportunity,” Jin suggests. “You want to make sure you will be well supported and have access to resources for you to excel in your specific field of study.”
As the director of admissions for Clarkson College, Ken Zeiger has seen firsthand the value of spending time on campus. “After creating a list, start planning campus visits with your support team,” he suggests. “If you don’t have to, don’t go alone because having someone with you can provide another perspective.” In terms of what to look for, Zeiger says to keep your passions at the forefront. “Visiting campus helps align your interest in the college with the reality. Is this a school you can see yourself wanting to attend? Can you see yourself as part of the campus?”
When you visit campus or speak to admissions specialists, be sure to make the most of this time. Rather than asking generic questions whose answers can easily be found on the school’s website, think about your needs and wants from a college setting and develop a list of individualized questions that elicit unique answers.
“For colleges that you won’t have a chance to visit, use online resources to get some real answers to your questions,” says Jin. “Users on websites like Reddit, Quora, etc. are fairly straightforward in their answers and will give you an unfiltered version of the good, bad and ugly to help you in your decision.”
In today’s age of connectivity, it’s probably easier than you think to find a connection or friend of a friend who attended one of the colleges you’re considering. Make use of these connections. “Current students and alumni offer excellent perspectives, and they may even have some tips once you are enrolled and on campus. It’s also okay if you don’t know anyone,” notes Zeiger. “If you visit campus, make sure you get a tour from a current student before stopping by the admissions office to see who else you can speak with.”
It’s important for students to understand the associated costs of an education and how that debt burden affects them. While gaining a college education is the ultimate goal, students also need to feel happy, healthy and financially sound after they graduate, or they may find it difficult to pursue their interests.
“One of your main goals in college is to set yourself up for success and have a strong start to your career after college,” says Jin. “Some colleges have done a great job of organizing events such as job fairs and on-campus recruiting to help students land coveted full-time jobs, but others don’t have as much support on that front.”
“Apply for admission as well as scholarships, if they aren’t included in the initial process,” instructs Zeiger. “Reach out to see about any additional funding; schools who know you have multiple offers may provide additional funds to have you at their campuses.”
Many students think one campus visit provides enough exposure to the culture and academic landscape, but many admissions experts recommend a second visit. “Go back to campus as an accepted student and sit down with an admissions representative to get an overview of your path and determine what your next steps will be,” Zeiger says. “It’s okay to tell your top choice you can’t afford to attend, but they cannot help you if you don’t share what the roadblock is.” Zeiger also suggests spending time on other parts of campus. “Go on the tour again, walk around and eat on campus. You should spend time in the place you plan to be for the next few years.”
Making a decision about which college to attend when you have multiple offers presents a significant step in the process, but there’s still work to do.
After weighing all your options and picking the school you feel is the best possible match, you need to let the school know. In addition to an acceptance letter — sent via email or standard mail — most institutions require a deposit to secure the student’s place in the incoming class. This amount can range from $50 to $500 and should be sent well in advance of the deadline to ensure the student doesn’t lose his or her place.
Even though you won’t be spending the next four years at any of these campuses, it’s common courtesy to let the schools know that you’ve decided to enroll elsewhere. Because other students may be on their waiting lists, sending in your rejection letter frees them up to make offers to other students who may feel those schools are the best matches for them.
Contact the financial aid office at the chosen school to discuss your award package, how it will be disbursed and exactly what the funds cover. Some funding only applies to tuition and fees, while other awards cover additional costs such as housing, textbooks, lab fees and meal plans. Once you have this information, spend time researching additional options — such as outside scholarships and grants — to help secure other needed funding. After calculating these funds plus any family contributions, ensure you’ve taken out a student loan to cover any outstanding expenses, if need be.
Many students live on campus for at least their first couple of years in school, and most colleges send out housing forms a few months before classes start so learners can indicate their preferences in terms of housing type (e.g., dorm, apartment, single room). Not all students get their first picks, but these documents help resident life staff pair roommates and provide the best option possible for each student.
Most schools hold summer orientation sessions to welcome incoming students to campus, help them register for classes, meet other incoming students and have any outstanding questions answered. Students unable to attend these sessions should work with their admissions advisers to ensure they receive any important information and learn how to register for courses.
Just because you’ve earned a place at college and accepted the offer doesn’t mean you can slack off in your high school classes. Many schools require newly admitted students to provide finalized transcripts after they graduate, and those who received poor grades in their final semesters may encounter issues surrounding their financial aid packages or be placed on academic probation.
Before you reach campus and dive into coursework, communal living and countless clubs and organizations, consider taking time out of your summer to think about what you want this new phase of your life to look like. What do you hope to accomplish academically? How do you define personal growth? What do you hope to take from your time in school? How can you best prepare for all the changes coming your way?
Still looking for more information related to college admissions? Accredited Schools Online provides a wide-ranging library of resources to help students feel educated and confident about their college journey.
Did the standard application deadline slip past you? While not all schools provide extended admissions deadlines, this guide provides advice and resources for students who are concerned they’ll have to wait an extra year to begin college because of missing an application deadline.
This comprehensive guide walks students and their families through the entire admissions process, beginning with researching prospective schools and ending with making the final decision on which school to attend. It also includes a range of expert perspectives and advice.
Degree-seekers hoping to avoid the competition and stress associated with typical college admissions often feel drawn to nonselective schools that admit students regardless of prior academic performance. If this sounds like a fit for you, check out this guide.
For many students, picking a college after receiving multiple offer letters comes down to how much funding each can provide. Use this article from Time magazine to learn how to leverage a top financial aid package.
Visiting students encounter many members of the campus community when they visit prospective colleges, so it’s best for them to come prepared with a list of questions whose answers will help them decide. The Princeton Review provides a comprehensive list of 60 questions to consider asking.
No matter whether you travel hundreds of miles or just down the road, this guide explains why making the most out of your campus visit is crucial to getting a good sense of the school.
If you’re hoping to receive multiple offer letters, your application needs to stand out. Business Insider provides top tips for getting colleges to take notice.
Before visiting a campus in-person, use this tool from The College Board to learn how to fully mine the school’s online presence and find helpful information.
Peterson’s offers further tips to demystify the process for juggling numerous offer letters and making a decision you don’t regret.
After making your decision, how do you let both the school you choose and those you decided to pass on know which school you’ve chosen? PrepScholar shares lots of valuable information on this topic.
This article reminds students not to rush their decisions and offers helpful ideas on how to carefully review options.
In this blog, Delaware Valley University offers a list of common errors students make when picking where they attend college.
The New York Times’ education section provides this helpful guide for students trying to weigh their options.
This Her Campus article offers timely advice on navigating multiple offer letters and making a great decision for your future.
Wondering how to make the most of your time with a student tour guide while visiting campus? CollegeVine offers a great list of questions.
The Washington Post shares acceptance and denial letters from numerous colleges to help students get a sense of what to expect when mail starts arriving.
PrepScholar helps students struggling to figure out where they should spend the next four years take a practical approach to the decision-making process.
Wondering why everyone says it’s so useful to visit college campuses? See what The College Board has to say on the matter.