May 1 is a notorious day in college admission. It is also known as the National College Decision Day. It is the deadline for students to commit to the college they will attend in the fall. Unfortunately, this date also brings some anxiety to many high school seniors. Many thought it was hard narrowing down their college list to six or seven, but now they have to choose just one.
To ease your mind as we approach May 1, here are some tips to help you make your decision. These tips will also ensure you take care of everything that needs to be done to have a smooth transition between high school and college.
- Continue doing what you’re doing. Seniorities is something that can affect many high school seniors as they are approaching graduation. It includes slacking off in classes, cutting classes or disengaging from extracurricular activities. Although you may have received acceptance letters, changes in grades can change your admission or financial aid status. Keep doing your best in school to ensure those acceptance letters stay in tact.
- Financial aid. Cost of attendance is probably one of the most important factors for many students when choosing a college. If you haven’t done so already, submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Some or all of the colleges you applied to may also ask for additional information or documents. Make sure you get everything to the colleges as soon as possible. Lastly, continue searching and applying for scholarships because they can definitely help you pay for college.
- Check your email. Putting your email address on all of your college applications and financial aid forms was not just a formality. Sometimes admissions offices and financial aid offices will need supplemental information and will ask you to submit them in a timely manner. Therefore, make it a habit to check your email to ensure you are getting all of your messages from the colleges. And, to be safe, make sure the college email addresses are on your safe list so that the messages do not end up in your spam folder.
- Celebrate the acceptances. As acceptance (and rejections and waitlist) letters come in, celebrate the acceptance letters. Don’t dwell on the rejections. Don’t think twice about the colleges that did not send you an admit letter. Instead, dive in and learn the most you can about the colleges that want you.
- Review financial aid offers. It’s easy to want to send in a tuition deposit for your dream school once accepted, but before you do, make sure it is a viable option financially. Review and compare all of the financial aid award letters to ensure the financial piece of the college will work for you and your family. Keep in mind that just because more aid is offered at one college does not always mean it is the best financial aid offer. Most financial aid award letters do not look the same and this makes it hard to compare them. The best way to compare award letters to is find the full cost of attendance for each institution (tuition, fees, housing, etc.) and then subtract all of the “free” money that is offered (scholarships and grants). The difference between the two numbers is the amount you and your family will be responsible for paying out of pocket and/or with loans. Have a discussion with your family to determine the best option for you while taking into account the net price of attending the colleges.
- Visit. If you haven’t already visited the colleges you are considering, get to the campuses as soon as possible. Many colleges have events specifically for admitted students to introduce them to life as a student at the college. If you can’t make the events, still visit to see if it feels like a good fit for you. College viewbooks and websites are marketing pieces and all of the colleges will look amazing. However, you will not know if it feels like the right place for you unless you walk on the campus.
- Ask questions. If there are things that are important to you, ask questions. Don’t just ask the admissions officers you have been corresponding with over the last year. Instead, reach out to current students and professors to ask your questions. You can ask these questions while visiting the campus, or you can connect with these people through social media or being referred by the admissions office. If something is important to you, ask the questions. Don’t be shy about your questions. You will be spending at least four years of your life at the college and deserve to have all of your questions answered. You wouldn’t buy a car or a house without asking questions, right? A college education is one of the biggest expenses in your life and you want to make sure you’re making the right decision.
- Let the other colleges down. Once you’ve made that final decision and have paid your tuition deposit at a college, let the other colleges know. Most colleges make it easy by including a response card in the acceptance letter or they have a place to decline the admissions officer in the admissions portal. However you do it, make sure you let them know. By declining their offer, it could free up a place for someone else who is on their waiting list. For less selective institutions that continue accepting deposits after May 1, letting them know will help you avoid an awkward call from the admissions office when they are trying to find out if you are still considering them or not.
Narrowing down your college list to just one can be stressful. However, it does not have to be if you take the time to do your research and really reflect on what is the best option for you. Once you make the final decision, send in your tuition deposit to secure your spot in the fall. Once the deposit is sent it, it is time to celebrate! You will be a college student in the fall!