It’s April and for seniors it means that the college decision is upon us. For most seniors the decision is already made and they are already picking…

It’s April and for seniors it means that the college decision is upon us. For most seniors the decision is already made and they are already picking out what posters to put up on their dorm room walls. As for the rest of us, we are stuck in college limbo. I applied to five universities and have already heard back from four of them, but one remains unanswered. Most colleges inform applicants of their admission by this time yet this particular university sends out their admission letters through the month of April. Therefore, I am currently stuck in a weird, gray area while I wait for my last admission letter before I can finally make my college decision. On top of all that unbearable waiting, I have the other colleges and their impending deadlines to worry about, too. All I can really do now is harass the university with calls and accuse our mail carrier of conspiring against me. Just when I thought I was done with this whole process it finds a way to keep its claws in me for a while longer. Will this hell ever end?   – Ruben

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  • Christopher

    Yes, it will. They’ll get around to sending you the letter.

    But is that the main point? You sound very stressed about the decision itself, whether or not it includes the possibility of going to that last college. Maybe you are worried about the decision? Do you fear that it is some Really Big decision, and if you do it wrong, your life will be worse in some permanent way? Some seniors feel that way. It’s very understandable, given how much emphasis as a culture we put on college, and on the idea that there’s a definite right and wrong choice.

    But…for what it’s worth, let me give you some perspective from the other side of the fence. I was a college professor for 10 years. I sat on admissions committees, and I taught freshman, and also graduate students (people with first, bachelor’s, degrees, studying for PhDs), and advised them both.

    What I would say is: this decision is not so hugely important as it may seem. The colleges themselves can usually evaluate decently how well you’ll do at their place. So you’ll probably do roughly equally well at any of those that admit you, and they’ll be roughly equally useful to you.

    Also, the prestige and name of the college matter less than it might seem. As someone who’s sat on graduate admissions committees (those admitting PhD students) I’ve accepted student at “lower name” colleges over those from “higher name” colleges — because the student’s record is better, show more thought and self-discipline and energy. So what *really* determines how useful college is to you is YOU, not the college. You can prosper pretty much equally well (or equally badly) at any college that admits you.

    So, maybe don’t sweat it quite so much. Any choice you make will probably work out OK, if the choices you make once you get there are good. And…it’s OK to let the final decision come down to purely personal stuff — do you like the look and feel of the campus? Were they friendly? Will it be in a part of the country you always wanted to see? Will you be closer to home, friends? Will you owe more or less money when you get out? These things matter. Don’t give them short shrift, while you try to predict a rather unknoweable future (Will I like the professors? Will this prepare me for my dream career? Do I even know what my dream career is?)