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for any teenager bound for higher education, it is always a relief to receive acceptance letters from various schools. yet, for all the advice that shows how to create a standout application, there is little that addresses what to do when the hard work pays off: how does one evaluate and select the right college or university, and what happens if a student is placed on a waitlist?

"when you are faced with multiple college admissions letters, first you have to honestly examine yourself as a prospective college student and decide what your priorities are to determine the best fit," said eric greenberg, founder and director of the greenberg educational group, inc., an educational service center.

by evaluating different personal criteria, which can emphasize everything from academics and class size to social factors, tuition and distance from home, students can narrow down a more targeted group of potential colleges.

these remaining schools merit more scrutiny-and some mileage, whether real or virtual. most experts agree that visiting, or revisiting, these schools will be hugely helpful in the decision process.

"being in the school environment is the best way to determine where you will thrive over the next four years," said melissa present, director of admissions at the albert a. list college of jewish studies at the jewish theological seminary. "another bonus to visiting campus is that you can talk with current students and other accepted students. by meeting the people you will be sitting next to in classes, campus meetings and eventually networking with as alumni, you will get

a clear picture of what you will gain

from attending each university being


during a second visit, accepted students usually see the school in a different light. greenberg explains that factors like weather or even the enthusiasm level of the campus tour guide can color a student's perception of a school. tova tolman, associate director of undergraduate admissions at fordham university, echoed this.

"every school is great when it is 70 degrees and sunny, but if you like a school when it is raining as well then you know it is right for you," tolman said.

if an in-person visit is not an option, present suggested checking out online tours of campuses, or viewing student videos that provide a glimpse of student life. list college, for example, has a series of videos that highlight important student experiences.

in between visits, tolman advises that the most important thing to do is make a deposit at a school that is one of a student's top choices. these deposits are often only a few hundred dollars and will guarantee a spot in the freshman class.

though acceptance letters are the goal, many students will find themselves on at least one waitlist. greenberg says that a waitlist should be seen as an opportunity for the student to demonstrate their viability.

"a lot of the same ways that a student can show interest during the admissions process can be used during the waitlist process-the grades, awards, additional letters of recommendations, community service projects and other achievements since submitting the initial application should be outlined to the school," he said. "if a student has been detailed and passionate in the application process, but remains passive during the waitlist process, that can be seen as incongruous and could be the difference between acceptance and rejection."

even as a waitlisted student, visiting the school is also a good idea.

"by visiting and then following up with a written letter, students demonstrate their interest and can find additional components of the school that they love," greenberg said.

if a waitlisted school is not ultimately selected, it is common courtesy to decline the waitlist as soon as possible.

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