Too Many Acceptance Letters? How to Weigh Your Options and Make a Decision

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Thursday, March 29th, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Yesterday we shared some advice for anyone whose university admissions decisions didn’t turn out as they might have hoped (Read: Battling a University Rejection? 5 Stories to Get Inspired).  But what if you’re facing the opposite situation?

Acceptance letters (Creative commons photo by Flickr user Adrian Ho)

Acceptance letters (Creative commons photo by Flickr user Adrian Ho)

Getting into too many schools can sound like a great problem to have, but having to choose between options comes with its own stresses.

And this applies double for international students, since you face unique choices and obstacles that your American counterparts don’t have to consider.

Here is some advice to answer a few of the big questions you may be asking as you try to weigh your options and come to the best decision:

How can I get a sense of the campus atmosphere if I can’t visit the campus in person?

Get on the mailing list (or today’s equivalent) so you’ll be notified of nearby alumni and admission office-sponsored events in your area. Visit websites of the schools you are most interested in often. Look for announcements of online chats or other opportunities to connect with students and faculty.

- Nancy Meislahn, dean of admissions and financial aid at Wesleyan University

More ideas: Finding a Substitute for the Campus Visit

Should I spend the money to study in America or stay at home?

in Bolivia there are no general education requirements so, for example, an economics major like me doesn’t have to take courses like physics or philosophy. That is better in some way because it keeps one focused on the things really important to one’s career only. [O]n the other hand, having “gen ed” helps student open their minds and even gives them the possibility to change their minds before is too late.

- Sebastian, University of Kansas

If I want to go back to Malaysia and work, yes, I think this will be a disadvantage. That’s why I have to be involved in college activities, and I think I’ll have to use my attitude and my behavior to convince them I’m really ideal for that job if I’m applying for a particular job. … It will open up your mind – you’re more able to accept other culture differences. I think this is one of the advantages that a lot of local Malaysians don’t have.

- Shu Wen, Colby-Sawyer College

More pros and cons: How to Make an Informed Choice AND Don’t Study in the US? The Cultural Side

What should be the most important factor in making my decision?

As my college counselor says, the decision part is the same as getting married to someone- you can marry only one person, not all. I am expecting myself to pick a place where I will have a dynamic experience.

- Farima, Mount Holyoke College

Read more: From High School to College

No one can tell you how to weigh your own decision, but here are some stories of how other students chose:

My criteria for picking a university was the location. Since I wanted to make the most of my experience in the U.S., I believed the big cities that can represent the culture and style of typical America would be my best choices. … I have to confess that I am not a very confident person in some ways, and I thought the competition at Columbia would be too intense for me, plus the unbeatable weather in southern California was irresistible, so I finally went with USC.

- Tara, University of Southern California

After attending a small high school, I knew I wanted a larger school, preferably in a city. … As an LGBTQ student, it was important for me to find a campus where I would not only feel safe, but welcome. I was happy to find Syracuse had almost everything I was looking for, but now that I am here at Syracuse University, I realize the reason I love it so much has absolutely nothing to do with the reasons I chose the school in the first place.

- Jaime, Syracuse University

Read more: How Did You Make Your Decision?

Mongolian student Uyanga Tamir spent last year blogging for the New York Times about her experience applying to college, and described the unique but effective method she used to finally make a choice between her acceptances:

I made a pro-con list for both schools on giant posters and hung them on the wall.

Visually seeing the advantages and disadvantages of each school greatly enhanced my decision-making. Though I loved the people and the social life at Dartmouth, I did not like the concept of studying for five years to obtain my Bachelor of Engineering. … Waking up warily one Sunday morning and seeing the posters on my wall, I decided to enroll at Princeton.

Read more: Follow a Mongolian Student Through the Admissions Process

And if you’re lucky enough to be deciding between more than one great option, remember the advice we shared from Yale’s Dean of Admissions. He was giving it to those who got rejected from their top choice school, but it applies equally to someone agonizing over which of two schools to choose:

After years of experience, however, here is what I know, virtually to the point of certainty: almost nothing depends on exactly which strong college admits you. Everything depends on what you decide to do once you get to a strong college, and how well prepared you are to take advantage of the infinite opportunities you will find there.

How would you or have you answered these questions? What other questions do international students ask themselves when trying to decide what university to attend?  Let us know in the comments!

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