If you just got a fat envelope, or its online equivalent, from your dream college, congratulations! All your hard work paid off.
But is that college really the best one for you? Your second-choice school may offer a better financial aid package in an effort to convince you to enroll, and it may have an alumni network every bit as powerful as your top pick.
When students and families weigh everything that goes into attending college, not least the cost, "the plan B schools sometimes are a better fit," said Katherine Pastor, a school counselor at Flagstaff High School in Arizona.
"Roughly a quarter million first-time, full-time students who entered four-year institutions in the fall of 2015 were accepted by their first-choice institution but opted to go elsewhere," said Kevin Eagan, managing director of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, which publishes an annual survey of American freshmen. Put another way, close to 17 percent of first-time freshmen were accepted at their top school and chose to attend somewhere else.