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nettodo's avatar

Can't decide between two universities; how do I make up my mind?

Asked by nettodo (473points) April 11th, 2016

Hey, there Fluther. It’s finally reached that point of the college application process and I’ve managed to narrow it down to two (I had four, but eliminated one on the basis of not having preferred programs and costing a lot, the other is still in the running, but financially not ideal), and I’m having a gosh darn hard time. I was originally attached to one as my dream school, but when looking at things (distance from home, the affordability of the surrounding city, and the amount of undertaking of moving to a new country), now I’m not so sure. These two couldn’t be more polar opposites, but I’m still attracted to the two.

* In-state (Maryland) vs International (Canada)
* Close to home vs really far away
* DC Metro area vs Vancouver metro area
* Great, but less renowned environmental sciences program vs well-ranked environmental sciences program
* 24K a year vs ~36K a year (at exchange rates)
* BIG sports school vs sports there, but not as spirited
(and so on, and so forth.)

How do I decide? Do I go with the school that drew me in first, but is a lot more to undertake myself and is more financially, or the school that’s personally safer and closer, but I haven’t “fallen for” yet?

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11 Answers

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jaytkay's avatar

I can’t remember where I read this, but it was advice from some wise famous person.

“The hard choices are very easy.”

“WAT?!” you say.

The logic is that if you are torn between two choices, you really, really like both. You will be happy with either one.

Personally, I would go with Canada. Maximize your learning by picking the one most alien to your life so far.

That is assuming that you aren’t racking up debt. If that is an issue, I would go with the option that leaves you with the least debt. If you read the news, its filled with stories about how recent graduates’ lives are constrained by student debt.

YARNLADY's avatar

Here’s how you decide. Take two sheets of paper, write pros and cons at the top of each one.
Label each one for each choice.

List the proc and cons on each sheet. That will give you a list where one will out pace the other, or you will come to your decision by thinking about this list.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I envy your choice. 35 years ago, I did not know I had a choice. I applied to 1 school and went there. I was a first-generation college attendee. Looking back, I could have applied at many other institutions. It’s not a big deal now. It’s merely something to ruminate over.

Forget the money.

Where does your heart want to go? When you dream of university, where do you see yourself? Go there.

Jeruba's avatar

Does one of them want you enough to offer you a scholarship?

JLeslie's avatar

Does the school in MD have an opportunity to do a semester abroad? Maybe then you will get an international fix, and it will likely be somewhere more exotic or “different” than Canada. Although, I will say Vancouver is a fantastic city.

If you go to school in MD will you live on campus or commute? I can’t say enough how much I think living in campus is a great thing to at least try.

What’s your major? I only ask because if you do a semester abroad so twines it matters what your major is. Some countries have better programs than others for specific subjects.

Is there not something in-between? In America, closer to MD, but still far enough that you experience a different place? I went to school in MI and I’m from MD. I liked being in the Midwest and learning some of the differences from one region to another in the US. Maybe it’s too late for that though? I guess you’re a senior?

Lastly, if you start in Canada and decide you don’t like it can you easily transfer those credits to an American school?

Cupcake's avatar

Find a coin. Pick one school for heads and the other for tails. Flip the coin. Tell yourself that you are going to the school that you picked for the side of the coin that you see.

How do you feel? Excited? If so, go there.

If you feel disappointed, go to the other school.

marinelife's avatar

If it were me, I would put together a grid. On the vertical axis, I would list the things that are most important to me in picking a college (location of campus, size of student body, credentials of faculty. reputation as a party school, whatever), and then I would list the two colleges side by side and grade them on each factor (1–5, 5 being the best). Finally, I would add up the scores and go to the one with the highest score.

Jeruba's avatar

I’ve tried the ever-so-rational pros-and-cons and numerical-weighting systems of decision making, and they don’t work for me. What helps me the most when I’m really stuck is to talk it through with someone who I know will ask me the tough questions I need to consider and won’t try to push me one way or the other. That way I end up hearing myself say what I’m really thinking and feeling—both—because neither one alone is going to give me the right answer.

And of course no one else can give me the answer at all.

(I do the same thing for others when they need this sort of help. There’s a bit of an art to it, but really any close friend or relative, especially someone who does not have a stake in your outcome, can facilitate your talking to yourself in this way.)

I usually also ask “What’s the worst that can happen if I do? and if I don’t?” and “Is this decision reversible? If I don’t do it now, can I still do it later? If I make a mistake, can I undo it or not?”

I do believe that there’s more than one right school, more than one right job, more than one right house and partner and location. @jaytkay makes a wise point: if both choices are so good, you can go with either and be fine.

There is a lot of merit to getting away-away for college. But, as @JLeslie suggests, you don’t have to go 3000 miles away to feel separated. Where I live now, and where I used to live on the East Coast too, you can drive less than an hour and feel like you’re in a different world.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jeruba The list doesn’t work for me either. This Ted Talk is an interesting way to look at hard decisions.

@nettodo I think you will like the link too.

Roofers's avatar

Weigh all the good and bad points base on your needs and requirements. Make a list. Think also where you can grow intellectually and socially to become a better person. Go for more good points side. You alone can answer this. (”,)

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