Decisions, Decisions: How Bronx Science Class of 2023 Graduated Seniors Chose the Colleges They Will Attend This Fall

Bronx Science’s Class of 2023 alumni offer insight into how they chose their colleges and advice on the college process overall.


Each year, around 725 seniors graduate from Bronx Science and go on to attend a wide variety of universities and pursue a myriad of different fields of study. Photo Credit: Joshua Hoehne / UnSplash

It is May 1, 2023 — an ordinary day for most, but a pivotal one for high school seniors across the country. Each year, National College Decisions Day, or Decision Day, falls on the first of May; it is the deadline for high school seniors to commit to one of the colleges into which they have been accepted. However, the road to Decision Day begins long before the dawn of the first, and often involves a number of twists and  turns before seniors arrive at their final choices. 

For Bronx Science graduated seniors of the class of 2023 such as myself (now alumni!), thoughts of college admissions have loomed in the back of our minds long before the start of our senior year — as early as our ninth grade year, we are encouraged to challenge ourselves with rigorous courses and extracurriculars to maximize our chances of being admitted to as many universities as possible. In a way, college admissions are the culmination of four years of hard work that bring with them the promise of further growth and change. 

But after all the applications have been submitted and admissions decisions have been sent out, priorities shift. By mid-April, most seniors have received all of their college decisions, with the exception of those from schools to which they may have been waitlisted. With all of the choices laid out, seniors must then figure out which one is right for them.

As seniors ponder their options, they take into account a myriad of important factors, such as a particular college’s location, reputation, cost of attendance, academic rigor, and campus life. 

With thousands of higher education institutions around the world, nearly 4,000 of them located in the United States as of 2020, according to U.S. News, it can be difficult to decide. Each university comes with its own unique set of characteristics. 

Bronx Science sends graduates to a sprawling range of schools, some as close as a quick train ride away and others as far as an ocean away. This begs the question: with so many options and factors to consider, how does one choose which college to attend?

Of course, the answer to this question varies from person to person. But after interviewing twenty-one Bronx Science seniors about their college plans, who have, in total, committed to seventeen different colleges, a few common factors emerged. 

While at the beginning of the college process, seniors often prioritize other factors such as a college’s reputation or its offered majors, the cost of attendance is often the deciding factor for many students above all else.

According to Forbes, the average student loan debt in the United States per borrower is $28,950. Understandably, many students are hesitant to take on a financial burden of this magnitude. This often forces seniors into a difficult position, wherein they must choose between a prestigious but costly university and a less well-known but more cost-effective university. 

“I know more than a handful of people — some of them close friends — who got into top schools like Stanford, Duke, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, and even highly ranked international schools, who rejected their top choices because they simply couldn’t afford it,” said Shiya Lin ’23.

The college process as a whole is known to encourage students to consider and plan for the future. Debt is one important factor to consider, but so is the availability of opportunities and programs for your intended field of study. Some universities specialize in specific fields or are located in places advantageous for networking. 

I plan to pursue a career related to political science and public health. George Washington University ended up being the school with the best cost for my family and it has the best opportunity for getting internships and making valuable connections,” Mritika Rahman ’23 said. 

Though pursuing a different career than Rahman, Susan Cohen ’23 similarly factored her future plans into her decision. “St. John’s University has an amazing program that will prepare me for the career I want. They have a program that allows me to get my Doctor of Pharmacy degree in six years, instead of the typical eight, and I don’t have to worry about graduate school.”

Of course, not everyone has their heart set on a specific career. In fact, it is estimated that around twenty to fifty percent of students enter college undecided on their major. 

For seniors who aren’t yet sure what they want to study in college, it was important that they picked a college that would give them more freedom down the line. Misbah Uddin ’23 said, “There’s a lot of flexibility in what I want to do, so Fordham University, which is close to me, gives me a lot more free time to decide and switch around compared to a dorm room miles away.”

Beyond degrees and programs, however, it is also important to consider what it would be like to live and attend classes in a particular area for four — or more — years. 

Your college experience is more than the degree you attain — if your quality of life is diminished because you despise living outside of a city, your school’s reputation can’t save you from being miserable. Hence, it’s important to make sure your chosen college aligns with the lifestyle you want, not just your major.

“If you have seasonal allergies or low tolerance for heat or cold, be mindful of where you apply. I was set on applying to Wake Forest and UNC Chapel Hill, both in North Carolina, but I quickly realized the heat there would be a nightmare for me,” said Marina Tiligadas ’23. 

Realizations such as this are normal parts of the decision-making process. Across the twenty-one Bronx Science seniors I talked to, nine of them said they did not end up choosing a college they would have expected or hoped to attend at the beginning of the college process. This should not be taken to mean that most seniors are unhappy with their final choices. Rather, it indicates that the college process is seldom predictable.

In fact, of those nine seniors, most of them mentioned ultimately being comfortable with the choice they wound up making. 

“The most important thing is to remember that college isn’t your end-all, be-all. I didn’t get into my top choice. In fact, I didn’t even get into one of my top five. But I’m so excited to be going where I’m going, and I know I’ll have a good time,” Autumn Magar-Matsuoka ’23 said. 

It is all too easy to get swept up in the chaos of the college process, churning out essay after essay, application after application, fending off anxiety and dread — but at the end of the day, you don’t need to be accepted into a dozen of the most prestigious schools. You just need one school that you think will help you get where you want to go. 

Last year, when I was a junior, I asked some of my senior friends for advice on the college process; most of them said some variation of “Be proactive, but don’t stress over it.” I was curious to see how their advice compared to the advice that this year’s seniors offered, and sure enough, some similar sentiments were expressed.

“Start early! You can honestly never start too early when it comes to learning about the college process and figuring out yours. Focus on your own well-being and prioritize a future that feels right for you, not what others are doing. And have fun! Senior year is stressful sometimes, but it’s also really chill. It’s a unique time where you can explore who you are and become more of an adult, while still having the safety net of your family and home,” Magar-Matsuoka said. 

Other seniors emphasized the importance of being flexible throughout the college process. 

“Be open to change, as your undergraduate years are important, but where you go doesn’t necessarily dictate your future, so don’t rule out good schools or get discouraged/disappointed on your acceptances just because they aren’t an Ivy,” said Gabriel Marinescu ’23.

Elizabeth Colón ’23 said, “Be open to whatever comes your way, and even apply to that one school you’re certain you have no chance of getting into. You never know what could happen.”

The college process is universally fraught with challenges, and not everyone will receive their desired outcome — but Decision Day does not dictate who you are and who you will be. Rather, it marks the next step in your growth, the next phase of your life. What you do wherever you wind up will matter more than where you do it. 

“Life is bigger than Bronx Science. Don’t let yourself get stuck in the moment, remember the bigger picture, and always know that you’ll have people rooting for you, no matter where you go!” said Rahman. 

“Enjoy senior year as much as you can, know that your worth does not depend on your college, and know that wherever you end up, you’re going to be O.K.,” Zoe Stanley ’23 said.

For me, senior year passed in the blink of an eye, the memories blending together in a haze of excitement and anxiety. In the end, I find that the moments that stand out most to me are not the ostensibly future-defining ones like paying my commitment deposit. Instead, they fall into one of two categories — ones where I was pushed the farthest out of my comfort zone, and ones where I found solace in the people supporting me.

Therefore, if I had to offer rising seniors a piece of advice not already mentioned by my peers, it would be this: consider what every experience means to you beyond the college process itself. The lessons you learn about yourself and the world at large will last much longer than the sting of rejection. 

And finally — your senior year will be over before you know it, so try to enjoy the ride! 

“The most important thing is to remember that college isn’t your end-all, be-all. I didn’t get into my top choice. In fact, I didn’t even get into one of my top five. But I’m so excited to be going where I’m going, and I know I’ll have a good time,” Autumn Magar-Matsuoka ’23 said.