Say you apply to six colleges and the acceptances flood in. How to choose? Go for prestige? If you're accepted to more than one school, should you choose the college with the biggest...

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Say you apply to six colleges and the acceptances flood in. How to choose?

Go for prestige? If you’re accepted to more than one school, should you choose the college with the biggest name?

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That depends, says Audrey Threlkeld, a counselor at Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart. “If you have a choice between Yale and [a less-prestigious school], you might want to choose Yale because it’s very selective and full of bright, motivated students who are excited about learning and posing questions that push your thinking.”

A school like Yale also can add cachet to your résumé, making it easier to land work after graduation.

But consider: When researchers compared the earnings of students who were accepted to big-name colleges but attended lesser-known schools with earnings of students who attended the elite schools, they found that both groups earned an equal amount.

Why? Highly motivated, hard-working kids do well no matter where they go to school. So, you might prefer to attend a less-expensive college and have money left to travel or attend graduate school.

Choosing among top schools: What if two or three highly attractive schools accept you? Go with your gut.

Here’s Christina Calderon, a 2004 graduate of Mercer Island High, about weighing the University of Washington’s Honor’s Program, Northwestern University in Illinois and the Georgetown School of Foreign Services in Washington, D.C.:

“I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to plunge into a really rigorous program like Georgetown’s or go for a liberal-arts education at the UW or Northwestern, which I knew I could handle. In the end I picked the one I liked the best.

“It was really scary,” she says of her decision for Georgetown. “But I took the plunge.”