TODAY   |  April 12, 2012

College decision deadline: How to choose

As we approach the deadline for selecting a college, high school seniors are facing a lot of stress. Monica Inzer of Hamilton College and Ted Spencer of the University of Michigan have tips for choosing the best home for the next four years.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back now at 8:37 with "education nation today." most high school seniors have until the end of the month to decide which college to attend in the fall. is there anything you can do if your kid didn't get into their first choice? monica enzer is the dean of admissions and financial aid at hamilton college . director of undergraduate admissions at the university of michigan . good morning to both of you. the issue of the wait list, we do have a lot of kids who are going to be wait-listed. i wonder, monica , is there anything you can do? what are the chances if you're wait-listed that you're eventually going to get in?

>> i'm glad you asked. this is a very popular question that people like us get all the time right now. i think families are prepared to be admitted or denied, but the wait list feels a little funny for them. each school is different. i think you need to check your decision letter and check with the school and their philosophy and get a sense of whether or not they want to hear from you or not. some schools do. and follow that and go for it especially if it's your top choice. don't do that with nine schools. but if, in fact, you love a college and you're on the wait list, you should feel okay that the school really liked you a lot. if they had more spots, they probably would have admitted you. and they team like you could be successful on campus or they wouldn't have put you on the wait list.

>> there are extreme examples. cornell puts almost 3,000 kids on their wait list. not one got accepted.

>> well, the process itself, it's kind of weird for families because what we do is, we have a target each year about how many kids we want to admit. and we do it for all the right reasons. we want to admit them so that we have class space. we want to admit so they can have residence halls, and they have a quality life. so what we do, we say, here's the number of students we want to admit. if after one we don't receive enough deposits, then we go and go through our wait list, our deferred students. and then that number might be one, but it might be 41, it might be 201, depending on the school , depending on the year, depending on the needs of that particular college.

>> let's say you're rejected outright, monica . is there anything you can do to be reconsidered the following year? they talk about a gap here. does that make any sense?

>> sometimes a gap year can make sense. first of all, on the topic of being rejected, something we all could learn how to deal with a little bit better, but students should know as part of the college admissions process, my experience is that students actually get -- they can be sad for a little bit, and they get over it. and probably a little more resilient than their parents. and parents -- my advice to them is it's okay to be disappointed in the decision, but don't be disappointed in your child.

>> right. let's talk about financial aid , ted. if you're given a financial aid package from one school , can you go to another school and say, hey, school "a" is offering me this. can you sweeten the pot a little bit?

>> i think for the most part, negotiation is not a day-to-day routine type of thing. i think that most of the public universities, when they give you a package, that is it. so some of the private schools , they will negotiate in some cases, but i think for the most part, negotiation is not what you should rely on as part of the way to get financial aid . the way you get financial aid really is to file the federal forms. it's based on your family income . then they decide how much money. and i would recommend that every family file that form because no matter how much your family earns, they still may have an opportunity to get some money from the university.

>> monica , there's going to be some lucky kids who get into multiple schools. so once -- if you're in that seat, how do you start deciding? what do you tell kids to do if they're going to start picking from the litter?

>> well, i think you need to sit down as a family and have a conversation. narrow down your options to the places you're going to be happy and think about fit. think about where you'd be happy, where you'd thrive, the best learning environment where the resources are available to you and where you're going to have a great education and a good life at the end of the four years. and your relationship is not just four years, it's long term. go back and visit. spend a lot of time, go off the admission tour rigoute. go to the dining hall .

>> in addition to talking to alums and so forth?

>> in addition to talking to alums. this is the time to talk to your parents. they may have attended college and they may have good reasons why this may be the right choice. talk to friends and relatives who also have attended college and ask that question. what was it that helped you make that final decision? a lot of times that will work for you as well.

>> finally, there's always rankings. i'm sure you guys love hearing about rankings. taken too seriously, or is it a legitimate tool for families?

>> i'm not a huge fan of the rankings, as you might imagine. if there is a time and place for them in the college admission process, and there may be, this is not it. i think at this point in the process, you need to think about, again, the place that's the best fit. you need to find your own measuring stick. you need to be at the place where you're going to be happiest. and whether the school is ranked 12th or 42 shouldn't matter continue it should be the place that will serve you best and ultimately you'll do better because of that.

>> use the rankings as a guide to look at colleges and not as the only college that you can attend if they're in the top 10 , 20, top 100 . it's a great resource. but to say that most of the people in america attended some of the best, best, best schools, and that's the only reason they're successful, there are really many, many great schools out there, and there are many, many folks who will do well at those schools.

>> it's a stressful time. our thoughts with everybody going through it. monica , ted, thanks so much.