Life after the acceptance letters start rolling in.
You’ve followed the suggestions about when and how to apply. You used spell check and spent time proof reading your essays. You even got your teachers, pastors, supervisors to write letters of recommendations. It all paid off and your mailbox is full of those eagerly anticipated college acceptance letters. Right? Well, maybe not quite yet, but it’s bound to happen. I’m sure you are minutes away from submitting the rest of your college applications.
Fall is the best time to apply to schools. I would suggest you check application deadlines for your top schools and don’t wait until the last minute to apply. For example, I work at William Jessup University (www.jessup.edu/undergrad) and we have a priority deadline of April, 1st to get your application in however, applying in the fall will get you a head start on important things like financial aid, housing and registration. Most schools have different deadlines so you want to be sure you know the process for your favorite options.
So, let’s say that you already have some acceptance letters coming in. You are probably wondering, “Now what?” It’s a legitimate question. We (admission counselors, school counselors, parents, teachers) put so much emphasis on getting accepted that you likely don’t know what to do next.
In your acceptance letter the schools will talk about what the next steps are. They will include a deadline to confirm your acceptance. Normally schools will ask for some kind of enrollment and/or housing deposit. The deadline they give you to confirm your Fall 2014 start is typically around May 1st but some schools are later.
So what do you do between now and May? I have a few suggestions that may help you:
1) Visit the schools you’ve been accepted to. The only way to select the right school for you is to visit the campus. Getting on campus will help you get a sense of what it would be like to be a student there. Staying in the residence hall overnight, attending a class, and eating in the cafeteria will help you make your decision. This would also be a great time to audition for choir, theater or try out for athletics. If you have already visited, consider visiting again to be sure of your decision. Some schools have “Accepted Student” Days or scholarship events. Ask the admissions office if these events will happen at the schools you are interested in.
2) Start applying for financial aid. This is the time to figure out how to pay for school. Do your research on scholarships and grants. After January 2nd you will want to file a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid ) by going to www.fafsa.ed.gov. This will allow you to see if you are eligible for grants and low interest student loans from the federal government and can help you to be eligible for aid from the state where you live. Check suggested FAFSA filing dates for your state. You can find scholarships through your future college, internet searches and asking for help at your college and career center or transfer center at the school you attend currently. Scholarships awarded by the schools you have been accepted to can typically be found on their websites or by speaking to the admissions office. You will also want to connect with local and national organizations that give scholarships such as the rotary club, coca-cola. You may even find that your church offers scholarships or partner with schools that offer you money because of your church or denominational affiliation. As with most things in life….when in doubt, google it. The internet can provide you with a list of sites that connect you with scholarship options.
3) Wait (hopefully patiently). This can be the tough part because most people think they need to be doing something. But if you’ve done steps one and two then you don’t have much left to do. The schools you’ve been accepted to will be working on their end to get you information about your financial aid, housing options, registration days, orientation programs and much more. Each school you have been accepted to will send you financial aid award letters or estimates of your individual costs for school. This may not happen until spring when the college hears from the government about your FAFSA results. Waiting this long to hear about aid can be difficult but it will give you the most accurate financial information about costs and include all your financial aid options.
4) Start planning for college. It’s ok to allow the excitement to build. What will your room decorations look like? What can you take with you? How will you be successful? How often should you visit home? It’s not too soon to consider what college life will be like. The hurdle of getting accepted is only the first step. As you are planning and waiting you may want to get a job to put away some $ in the bank to pay for school or have some cash for spending once you get there.
I’d like to congratulate you on getting your applications done! Sit back for a moment and enjoy those acceptance letters. Go ahead, hang your letter on the refrigerator door. Be proud of your accomplishments and prepare for your future. If you need help, call the admissions offices at the schools you have applied to and they can give you specific information about their process. You are not alone in figuring this out. There’s plenty of support and advise to come from your family and friends as well as all of us here at myblueprintstory.com, stay tuned.