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Accepted, Now What?

The moment you’ve been anticipating, let’s face it, for the past four years, is finally here.  Indeed, it’s the pinnacle of your high school career.  Your college decisions have begun arriving and, to no one’s surprise, you’ve received some acceptances.  Congratulations!  However, don’t assume that your work is now complete.  There’s still plenty of paperwork to be filled out, factors to be weighed and decisions to be made.

Most schools will send out their letters sometime between late March and early April.  And nearly all of those schools will expect you to render a decision by May 1st or thereabouts.  This leaves you with a month or so to contemplate your options.  At that time, you’ll need to confirm your acceptance by mailing in a deposit to your chosen university.  If you fail to do so, you will likely forfeit your admission.

As you begin to navigate the final leg of your college application journey, here are some points for you to consider after receiving those coveted acceptances:

Ramp Up Your Research

You probably thought you were all done with the research.  However, the problem with being a successful college applicant is that now you have to choose from amongst all of your acceptances.  It’s important to revisit the materials you’ve collected from your various schools.  Moreover, if time and resources allow, it’s highly beneficial to visit the colleges to which you were accepted.  Many schools hold special events designated solely for admitted students.  These are great opportunities to get a flavor of each school you’re seriously considering.  Remember, your tastes, needs and desires could have changed over the course of the year.  Upon reflection, the school you once considered to be your frontrunner might have lost its luster.  And a college you once thought to be a back-up might actually have some really attractive elements.  

Show Me the Money

To many applicants, the financial aid package is just as important as the actual letter of admission.  After all, many final decisions come down to which schools offer the most money.  Most colleges send the financial aid info along with the acceptance letter.  A small handful of schools might send them quickly on the heels of their admissions decisions.  If you haven’t received your award letter by mid-April, we suggest you contact the school.

Once you receive aid letters from all of your colleges, it’s time to compare packages. You’ll want to calculate your out-of-pocket expenses by subtracting your aid from the full cost of attendance.  You will also want to bear in mind the type of aid awarded. Loans must be paid back, while scholarships don’t. In addition, some scholarships are given for all four years, (usually with strings attached, such as maintaining a minimum GPA), while others are only guaranteed for one year. Read the fine print! Finally, be sure to read each document carefully as some financial aid offices require you to return signed papers within a relatively quick timeframe. 

Taking a Gap Year?

Though it’s certainly exciting that the prospect of college is now becoming a reality, you might feel a little unnerved, unprepared or hesitant.  If you know you ultimately want to attend college but don’t think you want to enroll in the immediate future, you should contact schools about the possibility of deferring.  Most schools allow students the option of postponing enrollment for a semester or year (and in some cases longer).  Be aware that there are likely filing deadlines to meet so it’s best to contact your university as soon as possible. For more information, consider reading our article on deferring.  

Notify Schools of Your Decision (Let Them Down Gently)

While it’s thrilling to be accepted by a handful of schools, you’re clearly not going to attend all of them.  Therefore, once you have made a firm decision, you should reach out to the colleges whose offers you’ll be declining.  It’s polite and preferable to do this as soon as possible.  After all, these universities need to know how to plan for their upcoming year. And you might even get some good karma from waitlisted applicants!

Don’t Slack!

Now that you’ve been accepted you’ll likely have the urge to kick back and bask in your accomplishments.  And while your celebration is well deserved, we must caution you against fully embracing slack-dom.  As inviting as it sounds, understand that your acceptance is conditional.  That’s right; a letter of admission isn’t binding.  A college can revoke its offer should your grades fall dramatically or disciplinary issues arise.  While there’s no need to take up residence at the library, be sure to make a continued effort.  In other words, demonstrate that you’re still the student they eagerly admitted.

Give Thanks!

We know you primarily did the heavy lifting throughout your high school tenure.  After all, it was you who pulled the all-nighter to complete that term paper about the Battle of Gettysburg (what a beast!).  It was you who logged all those volunteer hours at the tutoring center.  And it was you who sacrificed many a Saturday morning to take a practice SAT test.  However, you didn’t truly go it alone did you?  From your parents proofreading your personal statement and the teachers who wrote your recommendations to the friends who simply offered moral support, you certainly had help along the way.  Don’t forget to get thank the people who assisted in your success.  A little appreciation goes a long way!

 

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