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Countdown to college: How to make the final decision

Lee Shulman Bierer, Tribune News Service on

Published in Education News

The colleges have made their decisions, and now students are in the driver’s seat. By May 1, students must notify the college they choose to attend. All students, even those who received notification that they are on a college’s wait list, must send in a deposit somewhere by May 1 to assure that they will have a spot in the freshman class.

If your student was accepted to more than one of his or her reach or target schools and is having a tough time deciding, count yourselves among the lucky ones. Now is the time to revisit colleges, at least virtually, and really kick the tires to determine which school represents the best fit.

If a college accepted your child, they want them to attend, and some colleges will be very aggressive in trying to influence your decision. Your student will no doubt be the recipient of much college paraphernalia (magnets, bumper stickers, etc.) and may even be swamped with solicitous emails and phone calls.

Colleges aspire to increase their yield rate — i.e., the number of students who accept their offer of admission. Harvard’s yield rate is listed at 82 percent in the 2021 edition of the Princeton Review's "Best 386 Colleges." That means more than four of every five students who were accepted to Harvard chose to go there. A yield rate above 50 percent is considered high, and with so many students applying to so many more colleges today, some colleges are struggling to keep up their yield rates this year. The point here is that once a college accepts a student, it is in their self-interest to encourage that student to choose to attend.


One of the ways that colleges reached out to accepted students and their families before the pandemic is through “accepted students days.” These were often full-day visitation programs starting in March and running through April. All accepted students and families were invited, with colleges targeting students who received multiple offers and were trying to decide.

All bets are off this year due to COVID-19. Some schools are open only to seniors with offers of admission, and some are closed to everyone. It's important to check each school’s policy on a regular basis. If you are able to visit, it can be a wonderful opportunity to not only see the campus but validate the academic fit of the school.

If you’re unable to visit, make sure you’re doing your due diligence on the academics, and watch some videos to try to get a more accurate sense of the vibe and the social fit.

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