Thinking (and Re-Thinking) Your Final College Decision

A good friend of mine likes to talk about that time in a meeting when “everything that needs to be said has been said, but not everyone has said it.” This is where you start getting phrases like, “to piggyback on that…,” or “I want to echo that and…”

Well, if you are a senior who is still weighing your options prior to a May 1, June 1, or potentially considering offers from waitlists this summer, that is pretty much where we are. I don’t have anything new or original to add to help you make your final college choice. Instead, I just want to lift up what far wiser and smarter people have offered recently, and perhaps get you thinking and re-thinking about the choice in front of  you.


The Many Admission Choices in a Changed World. College Admission Decoded Podcast, NACAC.

Why? Because this episode includes a few of my favorite people in this field. Nicole Hurd, founder and CEO of College Advising Corps; Jeff Selingo, education reporter and bestselling author of Who Gets In and Why; Tevera Stith, Vice President for KIPP Through College & Career at KIPP DC; and Angel B. Pérez, CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

Key Quote: “…as I think back on my college experience, and that was a long time ago, but honestly what I remember most is not the content of the coursework. It was really the people, the faculty, the relationships, and the fact that some of my best friends in life right now are people that I went to college with. So, really doing that research around people and relationship development is important, as well.” Angel Perez

Look out for: Great insight into evaluating the financial equation: loans, ROI, and outcomes. “Still always think about where you want to be long term and what are schools doing in this context to make sure their seniors are being recruited by top folks? What does the career process look like?”


What frogs in hot water can teach us about thinking again. TED, Adam Grant.

Why? Because right now you need to not only think, but also re-think things.

Key Quote: “Don’t get locked into one narrow path. And stay open to broadening your goals…your goals can give you tunnel vision- blinding you to re-thinking the situation. And it’s not just goals that can cause this kind of short-sightedness, it’s your identity too.” Damn. That’s deep and important. Pay attention.

Look out for: Sheesh. Like 37 great ideas and quotes in 15 mins. Specifically, around the 7 mins check out identity foreclosure. “When you settle pre-maturely on a sense of who you are, and close your mind to alternative selves.” (Listen to minute 7-8 at minimum.) AND the concept around minute 14 of confident humility.

Time to bookmark this url for your college career and beyond, my friends. “Listen to ideas that make you think hard- not just the ones that make you feel good. Surround yourself with people who challenge your thought process, not just the ones who agree with your conclusions.”


College Decisions: Investing, Game Shows, and Mascots. Forbes, Brennan Barnard.

Why? Because Brennan is the master of tapping experts and pulling in a variety of voices to provide perspective, ask good questions, and help think and re-think issues. AND that is exactly what you should be doing right now. Your goal is perspective, questions, thinking and re-thinking.

Key Quote: It can be useful to reflect on other decisions you have made in the past and how effective your approach was. If you have not faced significant decisions, ask those around you about the processes they use.

  • What steps did you take to decide?
  • What information did you need to gather, and how did you do it?
  • Whom did you involve, if anyone, in the decision-making process?
  • Were you pleased with your decision?
  • What, if anything, would you do differently now?

Look out for: Brennan includes some good online resources too, including College Navigator, College Scorecards, Occupational Outlook Handbook, and Third Way Price-to-Earnings Premium.

Bottom Line: Ask the questions that most matter to you. Find that delicate balance between listening to the people around you whom you trust and value, but also having confidence in knowing your decision is YOURS. Trust me- one cold day in November of your first year, you’re going to be scrolling Instagram and looking at pictures from friends at other schools. You are going to wonder, “Did I make the right choice?” First, everyone. EVERYONE has this moment. Second, if you really asked good questions in making the decision; if you know who influenced you and how; and if you know at the end of the day, that place was your choice, you’ll be able to be happy for your friends, but still resolute in your decision and path.

Clark Notes (far less known than my boy, Cliff)

  1. Options and choices can feel overwhelming, but don’t forget that THIS WAS THE GOAL! This decision is not a burden—it is a privilege. It is a blessing. THIS is why you visited schools, researched colleges, and applied to more than just one place. THIS is why you took tough classes, studied, worked hard, and sat through multi-hour standardized tests—to have choices, to have options. You are EXACTLY where you wanted to be! You did this to yourself—and that is a great thing!
  2. If you are still weighing your options this week, next month, or this summer due to multiple offers or waitlist opportunities, you don’t have to decide—you get to decide! You get to think about the place you will thrive and create a lifelong network. You get to talk through your options with your family who loves you, are proud of you, and are excited about this next chapter of your life.
  3. It’s not where you go, but instead how you go and “who you go.” That is going to be dictated by a mentality, rather than a physical location.
  4. Perhaps Steve Jobs said it best in his 2005 Stanford Commencement address, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Your goal is to be confident in and excited about your college decision.
  5.  I pretty much threw everything and the kitchen sink into this Twitter thread, so if you are still stuck, check it out. 

Burn the ships! In 1519, Hernán Cortés sailed to Veracruz, Mexico upon the direction of the King and Queen of Spain, in order to find gold, silver, and a new place to settle. When they arrived, his crew talked incessantly about returning home. They were thinking about home, family, their known life, other places, and an easier path. As they came ashore, Cortes ordered them to “Burn the ships!” Why? So they could not look back, and instead would be fully committed to the expedition. Once you put down your deposit, that is your job as well. Be all in—buy the t-shirt, put the window decal on the car, start following student groups on social media, donate or trade the shirts you have from other school (don’t go all Cortes here and burn them), close/cancel your applications from other colleges, and start planning on  orientation in the summer.

Don’t look back. Too many students second guess themselves and spend their summer in angst. Burn. The. Ships!

Note: It’s April 30. I’m tired. You are tired. My editor is tired, so I did not bother her on this one. If you find typos, hopefully the content is strong enough to keep you focused. If not, please send complaints to 





Author: Rick Clark

Rick Clark is the Executive Director of Strategic Student Access at Georgia Tech. He has served on a number of national advisory and governing boards at the state, regional, and national level. Rick travels annually to U.S. embassies through the Department of State to discuss the admission process and landscape of higher education. He is the co-author of the book The Truth about College Admission: A Family Guide to Getting In and Staying Together, and a companion workbook published under the same title. A native of Atlanta, he earned a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a M.Ed. from Georgia State University. Prior to coming to Tech, Rick was on the admissions staff at Georgia State, The McCallie School and Wake Forest University. @clark2college