May 1st is known as THE day in the college admissions world. Future college students from all over are finalizing their final commitment and saying hello to their future campus and home. May 1st is National College Decision Day and College Raptor is so excited for its students to experience it soon! As exciting as it is, it can also make some students anxious because they must decide which college they are going to attend.
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 one can cause a lot of worry and concern.
To ease your mind as we approach May 1st, 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 can include slacking off in classes, cutting classes, or disengaging from extracurricular activities. Although your applications are submitted, changes in grades could come into play during the admissions process. Keep doing your best in school to ensure those acceptance letters that arrive don’t get rescinded. In other words, keep your eye on the prize!
2. Apply for financial aid
The 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 submitted before the deadline. If you get it in just one day late, you could lose out on scholarships and grants.
Don’t forget to use College Raptor’s scholarship search tool to see all the scholarships you’re eligible for. These scholarships can be used for your tuition, books, and even dorm rent!
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. We suggest creating an email specifically for your college-related things to ensure you don’t miss it or it gets lost in the abyss of your other emails.
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, even if it wasn’t your top-choice college. It is a huge accomplishment to get accepted into a college and we want you to know that we’re proud of all your hard work, and you should be too!
5. Review financial aid offers
It’s easy to want to send a tuition deposit to your Office of Admissions once accepted, but before you do, make sure it is financially a viable option. 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 is to find the full cost of attendance for multiple institutions (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 college.
6. Do a campus visit
If you haven’t already visited the colleges you are considering, get to the campuses as soon as possible, especially before you make your enrollment decision. 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, and get a feel for the environment.
7. Ask some final questions
If there are things that are important to you, ask questions! 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 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. 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 on the admissions online portal.
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 1st, letting them know will help you avoid playing phone tag with them. Not to mention, it’s also just courteous to do.
Make May 1 Decision Day Easier
Narrowing down your college list to that final one can be stressful on National Decision Day. However, it doesn’t have to be if you take the time to do your research and reflect on what is the best option for you. What’s a great college for you might not be a great college for others. So take your personal interests, career goals, and academic goals into consideration during your decision process. Once you make the final decision, send in your tuition deposit to secure your spot in the next first-year student class.
Once the deposit is sent, it is time to celebrate! Be sure to look out for multiple deposits needed from your college as first-year applicants. You will be a college student in the fall or summer! College Raptor is confident you’ll make a great choice and do amazing things!