May 1 is a notorious day in college admissions.
It is the deadline for students to commit to the college they will attend in the fall, also known as the National Enrollment Deposit Day. This date on the calendar is known to give students a lot of anxiety.
Many students thought they had a hard time narrowing down their college list to six or seven options, but that was nothing compared to making the final college decision. Depending on the number of acceptance letters that arrive, narrowing down the list to just one can cause a lot of worry and concern.
To ease your mind as we approach May 1, here are some tips to stay sane and to ensure you take care of everything that needs to be done.
1. Continue doing what you’ve been doing
Senioritis is something that can affect many high school seniors as they are waiting for college acceptance letters. It includes slacking off in classes, cutting classes or disengaging from extracurricular activities. Although your applications have been submitted, changes in grades could come into play during the admissions process. Keep doing your best in school to ensure that those acceptance letters that arrive don’t get rescinded.
2. Apply for financial aid
Cost of attendance is probably one of the most important factors for many students when choosing a college. Financial aid will play a huge role in your decision. Make sure you submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and include all of the colleges that should receive the information.
Also make sure you follow any other financial aid requirements that specific colleges might have. For example, some colleges require the CSS Profile or their own financial aid application. Pay attention to deadlines and get financial aid documents in before the deadline because if you get it in just one day late, you could lose out on scholarships and grants.
3. 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 it in a timely manner. 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.
4. Celebrate the acceptances
As acceptance (and denial and wait-list) letters come in, celebrate the acceptance letters. Don’t dwell on the denials. Instead, dive in and learn the most you can about the colleges where you were accepted.
5. Review financial aid offers
It’s easy to want to send in a tuition deposit to 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, room, board, 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 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.
6. Visit the campus
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, meet the students, etc.
7. Ask questions
If there are things that are important to you, ask the questions to people at the college. 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 get answers while visiting the campus, or you can connect with these people through social media or by referral from the admissions office. If something is important to you, ask the question.
Don’t be shy! 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.
8. Let the other colleges know
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 offer in the admissions online 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 doesn’t 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 next freshman class.
Once the deposit is sent it, it is time to celebrate! You will be a college student in the fall!