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Decision day: How Philly students picked their colleges

May 1 is the date by which students must select the college they will attend. We asked students at four high schools in the region which schools they selected.

The University of Pennsylvania campus.
The University of Pennsylvania campus.Read more--- Michael Bryant / File Photograph

May 1 is decision day in college admissions, the date by which students must notify the college they plan to attend.

For many students, it’s an agonizing decision. They must weigh myriad factors, including financial aid, educational programs, proximity to home, and general campus feel.

We asked students at four area high schools — Cheltenham, in Montgomery County; Haddonfield Memorial, Camden County; and Paul Robeson High School for Human Services and Germantown Friends School, both in Philadelphia — to share how they made their choice.

Taylor Pagan, Gwynedd Mercy University: ‘Because the campus felt like home’

High School: Cheltenham

Subject: Nursing

Accepted to: Gwynedd Mercy, University of Scranton, West Chester, Eastern, and Holy Family.

Reason: I chose Gwynedd Mercy not only because of its good reputation within its nursing program and it is something I am able to afford, but because the campus felt like home. I fell in love with the campus environment when I first set foot on their grounds. The university is not too far from my home, which means I can visit my family every now and then. The student to teacher ratio is low — 11-1 — allowing students and teachers to establish a relationship, something that would be impossible to do in a classroom of 200 students.

Nimi Badejoko, University of Pennsylvania: ‘Could offer me enough rigor’

High School: Cheltenham

Subject: Economics

Accepted to: Boston College, Northeastern, Penn State, Pitt, Penn, St John’s, Villanova

The reason: Among all the schools, Penn was the one I felt could offer me enough rigor. While on campus, I never felt like I didn’t belong, from a cultural perspective. I hope to make a social impact on the world one day, and Penn is able to give me a platform to do so.

Jada C. Holland, Spelman College: ‘A dedication to the academic excellence of African American women’

High School: Cheltenham

Subject: Early childhood education

Accepted to: Howard, Spelman, Clark Atlanta, Delaware State, East Stroudsburg, Temple

Reason: I have decided to continue my academic career at Spelman College because I believe that I will be exposed to the best people, peers, lessons, and opportunities that will make my future incredible. Spelman has a dedication to the academic excellence of African American women, which attracted me to the institution. My passion for education, specifically improving the system so all children get a valuable education, is my ultimate goal. Spelman College will give me the best opportunity to be a change agent in the field of education, while also giving me a comfortable environment to learn in.

Adam Turk Karan, Pennsylvania State University: ‘Their buildings were very well designed and new’

High School: Cheltenham

Subject: Engineering

Accepted to: Pitt, Drexel, Penn State, Maryland, Lehigh

The reason: From the start of the college search, I felt as though I could thrive academically and socially anywhere, but in the end Penn State excited me the most and made the most sense. The college of engineering is ranked very high nationally, and their buildings were very well designed and new. … Also, in-state tuition insures that I’ll have minimal college debt. The students seemed very passionate for their school and love sports, which is a necessity for me. On top of that, the entire school, and the college of engineering in particular, emphasize the importance of studying abroad, unlike many other engineering programs.

Luke Baxter, Princeton: ‘Perfect fit for my academic, extracurricular and social endeavors’

High school: Haddonfield Memorial

Subject: Molecular biology

Accepted to: Princeton, Wake Forest, Boston College, Bucknell, Loyola-Maryland

Reason: I applied restrictive early action to Princeton in the fall, but I was deferred to the regular decision pool. When the college decisions finally came in, I was between Boston College and Wake Forest, having not heard back from Princeton. … When I was finally accepted into Princeton, considering that it was my first choice of schools to go to, I immediately made the decision to attend. For me, Princeton is a perfect fit for my academic, extracurricular, and social endeavors.

Luke Colehower, Rutgers University: ‘It was a school that wanted me’

High School: Haddonfield Memorial

Subject: Biological Sciences

Accepted to: Rutgers-New Brunswick

Reason: It wasn’t really hard, because it was a school that wanted me. It was in-state and close to home. Plus, my mom went there.

Julia Rose Chin, Stanford University: ‘More to do with a feeling than anything concrete’

High School: Haddonfield Memorial

Subject: Computer science

Accepted to: Stanford, MIT

Reason: I feel extremely lucky that I got accepted to literally my top two colleges, but this was both a blessing and a curse — I like both of these schools so much, it has been a very tough month trying to decide. … I felt as though I was being stretched toward opposite coasts, nostalgic for aspects of the East Coast I enjoy while also yearning for new experiences in a new setting, in sunny California of all places. … In the end, I believe that Stanford would give me the most flexibility with fields of study and also the most new experiences, and I’m most looking forward to that feeling of exploration during college.

Roslyn Mayes, Community College of Philadelphia: ‘The cheapest and the easiest way to start college’

High School: Paul Robeson High School for Human Services

Subject: Business

Accepted to: Neumann, La Salle, Indiana of Pennsylvania, Lincoln, Temple, Manor, Cheyney, Morgan State, Shippensburg, CCP, Montgomery County Community College

Reason: The college I selected is Community College of Philadelphia. I picked this college because I really don’t know if college is for me, if that’s something I really want to do. I will be able to get my associate’s degree at Community. After that, if I feel like I need to transfer to another college, then I will do that. Community is the cheapest and the easiest way to start college. Also, I will be able to save up money instead of being in debt from taking out so many loans to go to a four-year university.

Na’eem Thompson, Indiana University of Pennsylvania: ‘A school far but not so far’

High School: Paul Robeson High School for Human Services

Subject: Nursing

Accepted to: Indiana of Pennsylvania, East Stroudsburg, Bucks County Community College, CCP

Reason: I selected Indiana University of Pennsylvania because I wanted to go to a school far but not so far that it would take me long to get home if something happened. Also, because I liked the atmosphere at the college when I went to visit. When I walked past students on campus, everybody said “Hi” to me and seemed to be getting along with each other. The classroom sizes and the dorm rooms felt like a great fit for me.

Riana McCrea, Neumann University: ‘Matches my needs financially and educationally’

High School: Paul Robeson High School for Human Services

Subject: Business administration and management

Accepted to: La Salle, Shippensburg, Neumann, California of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana of Pennsylvania, Bloomsburg, Georgia State, Arcadia, Wesley College, Lincoln, Chestnut Hill

Reason: I selected Neumann University because it matches my needs financially (offered $24,700 for the year) and educationally. They offer lots of opportunities on their campus, as far as education and entertainment. As a major in business administration at their university, I’ll have a lot of opportunities to intern at business companies that the university is partnered with and to get help with job placement after graduation. Their campus, staff members, and students make me feel like I am at home and comfortable.

Sophy Henisz, University of Wisconsin-Madison: ‘A big school with great game days and school spirit’

High School: Germantown Friends School

Subject: Dairy science

Accepted to: Cornell, Michigan State, Penn State, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Wisconsin-Madison

The reason: Cliché as it sounds, I knew I wanted to go to Wisconsin-Madison within about 20 minutes of my being on campus. Prior to visiting, it had checked all of my boxes: it was a big school with great game days and school spirit, it had an extremely impressive dairy science program (arguably the best in the nation), and the location wasn’t too close to home while still having all of the seasons. But my love for the school grew exponentially while I was on campus.

Jackson Craig, New York University Tisch School of the Arts: ‘A more entrepreneurial approach to trying to make it in the music industry’

High School: Germantown Friends

Subject: Music

Colleges accepted to: NYU Tisch, Berklee College of Music, Belmont, Drexel

Reason: I chose NYU because I got into a super-exciting program called Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. As a musician and performer, I wanted to find a program that could help me understand different aspects of the music industry and how to go about growing my musical network and brand. Luckily, this interest narrowed down my college search to only a few schools that offered a program that would let me do this. … I chose Clive Davis because it emphasizes a more entrepreneurial approach to trying to make it in the music industry.

Kimberly Hua, University of Pittsburgh: ‘A clear and guaranteed path for me to reach my future goals’

High School: Germantown Friends

Subject: Pre-med

Accepted to: Pitt, Vanderbilt, Emory, Washington University, Rochester

Reason: I chose to attend the University of Pittsburgh through the Guaranteed Admissions Program to the medical school because it provides a clear and guaranteed path for me to reach my future goals. I have known for my entire life that I wanted to become a doctor, specifically a surgeon. The exemption from the MCAT, Pitt’s medical school ranking No. 11 in surgery nationwide, and the freedom to pursue more interests in undergrad (from time saved not worrying about applying to med school) made this program my number-one choice over any other university.