From crafting the perfect personal essay to scrambling for those last-minute teacher recommendations, the college application process is stressful. But once those acceptance letters have finally arrived after weeks of anticipation, students are still left to complete one very nerve-wreaking (and important) component: deciding where to go to college.
Luis Ruuska, a high school senior and blogger for The Huffington Post, is supposed to make this final decision this week. Like many other students, he has to weigh the financial aid packages he received from different colleges.
"One of the colleges is offering to meet my full financial need, but with a lot of loans," Ruuska said in a HuffPost Live segment on Tuesday. "So one of the things that I have to really consider is whether or not I want to take out those loans and go to a college that might have a bit of a better program."
HuffPost Live explored the different ways to navigate the process of making this decision in a discussion with Alexis Jane Torre (a freshman at the University of Arizona and HuffPost blogger), Jordan Goldman (CEO and founder of Unigo.com), Kat Cohen (CEO and founder of IvyWise college counseling) and Bruce Sallan (author of A Dad's Point of View).
Torre also mentioned the importance of financial aid that played in her decision-making process, and how sometimes those results can be just as painful as receiving bad news about your general admission.
“I got into the schools I wanted, but I got rejected from some scholarships," Torre said. “Getting rejected no matter what -- whether it’s a school or scholarship -- is painful because you get attached to this idea of what kind of future you can have.”
While it's critical for students to flesh out the details of their financial aid packages, it's also important to consider whether it's worth remaining on a school's wait list. For those hoping to get bumped from the list, this may mean attempting to separate yourself from the competition. Sallan's son, a student at the Berklee College of Music, submitted a unique supplement with his application, which Sallan believes made him especially memorable.
“He talked his way on stage and jammed with Chris Cornell at The Roxy when he was 15-years-old and that YouTube video had thousands of hits,” Sallan explained. “It shows initiative and creativity that you can’t quantify. You need to stand out.”
Tell us: How are you planning on making your college decision? What's the best way to deal with admissions-related stress? Share your thoughts in the comments or tweet @HuffPostTeen.
Also on HuffPost:
You Listened To Your Intuition
Did you have a gut feeling about what choice to make, or a strong sudden feeling about what must be done? Also known as following your heart, listening to instincts, gut reations, and intuitive guidance can help you make decisions that are in line with your deepest values and concerns. But be careful not to confuse intuition with emotional reactions -- sudden clarity, not sudden anger, is a sign of your inner guidance at work.
But You Also Weighed The Possible Outcomes
While your gut reactions and instincts are important sources of intuitive guidance, make sure that you also look at the decision rationally, weighing the pros and cons of each possible choice to figure out what, realistically, makes the most sense for you. Balance out emotional reactions by using logic and making sure you've taken all relevant factors of the decision into consideration.
You Can Take Pride In The Decision
Do you see the possibility of regret or shame following from one of your possible choices? Will your actions potentially affect someone else in a negative way? If you're struggling with a decision between something you want and something you feel that you should do, take time to consider how you will likely feel about yourself afterwards -- and whether the choice is in line with the kind of person you'd like to be.
You Found The 'Why'
Have you gotten to the root of <em>why</em> you might be thinking about breaking up with your boyfriend, or attending college abroad? You may tell yourself a story about the potential perks of such a decision without ever getting to the root cause of your desire to leave a particular relationship or situation. Sometimes the details can cloud our minds to the most fundamental aspect of WHY you are making the choice in the first place. Looking at this question can help you find your true motivations.
You Can Sleep
Your body can tell you a lot about whether you're making the right decision. Do you feel tense or start experiencing anxious, racing thoughts when you talk or think about one of the options? When you've made the decision, does your body feel relaxed? Are you able to sleep well? Tuning into physical cues can help connect you to more unconscious feelings and instincts you may have about making a particular choice.