College acceptance letters are starting to arrive in mailboxes and inboxes all over the country. The letters congratulate students on being admitted and usually ask students to confirm their enrollment at the institution by sending in a deposit to save their spot. However, students who applied early action or regular decision have until May 1 to confirm their enrollment. Therefore, students should do a few things before committing to an institution:
Figure out finances
- Cost of attendance. There is the published cost of attendance number you have probably seen in the marketing materials for the college. This usually includes tuition, fees, and housing. However, those numbers could be the previous year’s cost of attendance, and many colleges increase their cost every few years. Therefore, check the college website or ask your admissions counselor about the cost of attendance for the upcoming academic year. In addition, learn about other fees you may be paying. If you are going to take a car to college, you’ll have to pay for a parking permit. Some colleges have additional fees based on the classes you take. For example, science courses with labs usually have additional fees. It is very possible you will have additional costs that are not included in the advertised cost of attendance.
- Financial aid. Wait for the financial aid offer. A common misconception among students and families is that they will only have to pay the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). However, colleges have different formulas to determine financial aid and many leave students with a gap. Study the financial aid offers and really determine if your family will be able to afford the institution financially after financial aid. In addition, remember students attend college for at least four year. Therefore, whatever you will have to pay the first year will probably be similar all four years. Ask yourself again, “Can my family afford this college for four years?”
Make sure you have all of your questions answered when it comes to the college you want to attend. No question is too big or too small when choosing the college you will attend for four years. If the website and brochures do not answer your questions, reach out to individuals at the college. In addition to admissions officers, reach out to professors, staff members, and current students. Choosing a college is a big decision and you want to make sure you make your decision knowing everything you need to know.
If you have not visited the college yet, try to visit before committing. All colleges will look pretty, diverse, exciting, and academic in their marketing pictures on the website and brochures you have received. However, the personality of the college may not come through in the pictures. Walk on campus and get a feel for what it feels like and if you think it feels like the right place for you. Many colleges have admitted student programs that will cover all of the things a student seriously considering the college will need to know. In addition, it will give you an opportunity to meet other incoming students who could potentially become your future classmates. If you can’t make the admitted student program, schedule a regular visit.
Take your time
May 1 is the National College Decision Day. Don’t rush into the decision, but take your time to think about all of your options. Consider how you felt while on the college campuses. Think about starting a pro and con list about the colleges you are considering to help you make the decision.
Pay attention to other important dates
While you still have until May 1 to make your decision, the colleges may have other deadlines that are important. Even if you get a financial aid award letter from the college, they may require additional information and will need that information by a specific date. Missing a financial aid deadline could alter your financial aid award. In addition, if a college is not currently your first choice, still meet their deadlines in case you change your mind later and the first choice college moves down the list.
Receiving an acceptance letter from a college is exciting! Be proud of your accomplishment of getting the acceptance letter (or email). While it is tempting to respond to your dream college by sending in your confirmation deposit right away, wait! You do not need to respond right away – for many colleges decisions, you have until May 1. Therefore, take your time with the decision and make sure you have all of your questions answered before making the commitment.