Have you started receiving acceptance letters from the colleges you sent applications? Did you get an acceptance letter from your first choice college? In addition to congratulating you for being admitted to the institution, the letter will invite you to confirm your enrollment at the institution by submitting an enrollment deposit. However, if you applied early action or regular decision, you have until May 1 to decide on the college you will attend in the fall. While you may want to send in that deposit right away, make sure you do these five things before committing to a college.
Figure out your finances
Unfortunately most students will not receive a full-ride scholarship. While a college may feel like a great place, if it is out of reach financially, it may not be the best fit for you. Before committing to a college, figure out the cost of attendance and financial aid.
- Cost of attendance. Have you seen the published cost of attendance? This number will typically include tuition, fees, and housing. However, are the numbers you saw the amount you will be charged? Or, are they the numbers for the current academic year. Many colleges regularly increase their cost of attendance, including some that increase their cost every year! Check the college website or ask your admission counselor about the cost of attendance for the upcoming academic year. In addition, learn about other fees you may be paying. Some classes require extra fees that are not included in the general publicized costs. If you are going to take a car to campus, you’ll have to pay for a parking permit.
- Financial aid. No matter what the net price calculator said, wait for the financial aid offer. The net price calculator is a good estimate, but it will not give you the exact amount of financial aid you will receive. In addition, a common misconception is that you will only have to pay the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Only a small percentage of colleges can meet full need. Most other colleges have their own formula to determine how much financial aid you will receive and many will have you paying more than the EFC out-of-pocket. Study the financial aid offers and determine if your family can afford the institutions financially after financial aid. In addition, remember that you will be attending the college for at least four years. Whatever you are expected to pay out-of-pocket the first year will probably be similar (or even more) the next three years. Again, ask yourself, “can my family afford this college for four years?”
Ask your questions
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 or brochures do not answer your questions, reach out to the college. In addition to admission 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 as much as you can about the college.
If you have not visited the college yet, try to visit before committing to the institution. All colleges look pretty, diverse, exciting and academic in their marketing pictures. However, the personality of the college may not come through in the pictures. Walk on campus to see if it feels like the right place for you. Many colleges have admitted student programs that will cover all of the things you 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 important dates
While you have until May 1 to make your decision, the colleges may have other deadlines that are important. The college may have specific deadlines for housing, honors programs, etc. If you are seriously considering these colleges, make sure to meet these other deadlines. In addition, the financial aid office may need more information from you and will give you a specific date they need the documents. Missing a financial aid deadline could alter your financial aid award. You may want to only focus on your first choice college, but if there are other colleges you are considering, make sure to meet their deadlines as well.
Receiving acceptance letters is exciting! While it will be tempting to respond to your first choice college by sending in your confirmation deposit right away, wait! You do not need to respond right away –if you applied early action or regular decision, you have until May 1. Take your time with the decision and make sure you have all of your questions answered before making the commitment.