I got into Christopher Newport, U Conn, UDel, UPitt, Northeastern and a few other colleges. I'm having a hard time choosing one. Two rocked the internship/job thing. I'd easily get a job. But I see myself at two of the others where I love the students and the community. How do I decide?


Karen Berlin Ishii, One-to-One Test Prep for the ACT and SAT in New York and via Skype

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As a parent and an SAT/ ACT tutor who sees students grapple with these choices every year, my advice to you would be to follow your gut – and your gut seems to be saying to go where you feel the community. If you are inspired by those around you, you'll find those internships – or make even better opportunities your own. It might take more work but you're more likely to be more motivated, which can make a real difference.

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Nedda Gilbert, MSW, Educational Consultant, and Author

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Oh boy, I can see how you would be torn. First and foremost, congratulations on all those acceptances. It is very validating to have so many wonderful choices even if you feel overwhelmed. As for where to go, it sounds like you don't have a dream school per se, but two you really love, and two you like that would net you a great internship or job. The dilemma is do you listen to your heart, or your future earnings and career potential. Or maybe a little of both.

So first, some context. Forgive the digression, but it may help explain why so many colleges (and parents) have become unduly focused on job and career.

A primary concern for parents and students alike is the sky-high cost of tuition. Tuition costs have continued to outpace inflation - and made many families "college poor." Everyone is rightfully asking, does the benefit of a college degree outweigh it's cost? Stories abound of students who leave college saddled with unmanageable debt, and no job offers. As a result, fewer families are willing to go into debt, or risk their savings for the unproven value of a college degree.

More and more, the feeling is that a school's diploma has to have a return on investment (ROI). Those popular rankings we all rely on recognize these important points of differentiation and rank colleges for their " best value." Many parents feel that the college you go to should lead to a good job, limited student debt, and preferably, you not returning home to live with Mom and Dad in their finished basement.

Given the huge investment, an increasing numbers of students are now choosing a different path. For some it's no college at all, but the trades. Or it may be online courses to offset tuition, or beginning at a community college where the costs are low. For others, the path may in fact be heading to a traditional, 4 year college, but one offering the most internships, and ultimately, jobs.

The technology revolution has also changed the college selection process for many students. Back in the day, (translation: for middle-aged folks like me), contemplating what you wanted to be when you grew up consisted of narrow and understood career paths. By contrast, today you are be likely be working in jobs and industries that never existed before, You may find a job designing an "app" or marketing one. You may join a tech start up, or study gene splicing. These new academic offerings are far more vocational. Studying the classics in a liberal arts setting does not require a summer internship at Google. But a marketing major in digital advertising will.

But back to you. The question is - and you don't say - what are you studying? And how will where you go impact the quality of that study and equally important, your first job out? If your focus is traditional liberal arts, and not a niche-y major (examples of niche majors are bio-med engineering, digital marketing, nano technology, real estate, food science, etc) this may be less critical. Also, if you have the luxury of cost not being a factor in where you go to college, perhaps you also have the freedom to go where you want to, and worry less about your job prospects 4 years from now. Ask your parents. What are their expectations?

Importantly, you have to self-assess what type of person you are psychologically and socially. If you are very social and will truly do better at the school with the community vibe you are drawn to - I think you have no choice but to go there. Could you thrive at a school for four years on just the major or the career prospects alone? I don't know, you will have to ask yourself this. You are quite young to give up on the dream of going to your preferred happy place for the grind of your career prospects. Remember, if you are happy, you will do well. if you are unhappy, you may wind up transferring or dropping out. Further, plenty of kids go to colleges that are less internship and job-prospect oriented. And do just fine. You may have to go in with the mindset that this will be up to you; you will have to create those opportunities. And I believe you can. At any college.

My two cents on the above colleges...Northeastern is by design a career/internship heavy co-op program. If you are sophisticated and ambitious and want to hit the ground running, this is an ideal place. Northeastern is all about the job. It may also be a place where students build less community because they are so focused on the world of work. Christopher Newport is a standout school for liberal arts, and has just jumped in the rankings to become one of the top colleges in the South. They are a rising star.. I suspect the community vibe there is cohesive and fun-filled. I don't want to ignore the other colleges - but UDel stands out to me as having the best of both worlds - though again I don't know your intended major. It is seriously internship, vocational, professional and career oriented - both in major and rich career opportunities - but also all-around one of the most happy student communities.

I hope this helped you go in one direction or another. If not, there is an exercise I practice with my clients.

Close your eyes and picture the above colleges. Now open them. What did you see? Repeat this a few times. Chances are you pictured yourself at one school over the others. That's probably where you belong.

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