You will always remember that exact moment you read the words, “Congratulations, you have been accepted.” That is a moment that has been a long time in the making and deserves celebration. With college apps in your rear view, and acceptance in hand, your stress level should significantly decrease. Give yourself time to celebrate and allow it to sink in before you get down to business.
Assuming you applied to multiple colleges, you are probably hoping your first acceptance will be one of many. This can be especially tough if it’s October and you already have an acceptance under your belt and the others won’t be released until March. In a perfect world, all colleges would have the exact same timeline in which they notify applicants, but that’s just not the reality. Typically you will have until May 1st (aka National Decision Day) to accept your seat so this will allow you plenty of time to evaluate your offers before making the big decision.
It’s time to ditch the rose-colored glasses you may have been wearing up until this point. Before you were accepted, you probably had the mentality that, “I’d be lucky to attend XYZ University.” Now that you’ve been accepted, shift that mentality. Yes, being admitted to a college is an extreme honor and privilege, but acknowledge they admitted you for a reason- they obviously feel you would be a valuable addition to their academic community. Now that the hypothetical has become reality, it’s important to dig deeper into these prospective colleges and find your best fit. We’re sure you did a lot of research leading up to your application, but you may find that now that the task of acceptance is gone, you can have more mental clarity and focus to better evaluate your options. Make a pro/con list about each college. Everyone’s “must-haves” may look a bit different, but here are some common considerations you should ask yourself:
- Do they have my intended major? Do they have a wide variety of majors in case I change my mind?
- What is their graduation rate? What is their retention rate?
- What’s their career center like?
- What are their alumni doing?
- What are their on-campus housing options/requirements? Can I have a car on-campus? Do I need a car?
- What is student life like on and around campus?
- How far is their campus from home?
- What are their sports programs like?
- What is the campus vibe?
- What is surrounding area like?
- What kind of support services are offered?
- What do students do on weekends?
- What kind of study abroad opportunities are offered?
If you haven’t visited each college you are considering yet, definitely make your best effort to do so! Some colleges host exclusive events for admitted students. Here are some tips for that campus visit.
You are probably shocked you made it this far without us mentioning money. That was on purpose. Cost is obviously a HUGE consideration that is very deserving of an entire section. For most applicants, the financial aid package is equally as important as that acceptance letter. Many colleges will even send the financial aid award letter with the acceptance letter. If not, it will come very shortly after. Once you receive award letters from all the colleges you are considering, it’s important to compare them. You’ll want to calculate all the out-of-pocket expenses (if any) that you will be responsible for. Also, pay close attention to the type of aid you are offered. Is it mostly scholarships and grants that you do not have to pay back? Or are they loans you will eventually have to pay back? Non-need based scholarships may either be offered for all four years as long as you maintain eligibility requirements or just for your first year. Be sure to read the fine print! For some help with interpreting your financial aid package, check out this article.
Once you’ve done thorough research and soul searching, be sure to submit your formal commitment to your college of choice. What about those other colleges who accepted you? Politely notify them you will be declining their offers. These colleges want to be able to plan for their upcoming school year and some good karma will come your way for freeing up your spot for a waitlisted student.
Keep the momentum going
As tempting as it is to let senioritis hit hard once you’ve been accepted to your dream school, resist the temptation. Your acceptance is conditional pending the receipt of your final high school transcripts. Also, don’t let any sort of disciplinary issues stand in your way either; the admissions office will get wind of them. You worked way too hard to let anything stop you now.
It took a village to get you to this accomplishment. This could have been your parents who initially instilled the importance of education into you, your teachers who assured you that you COULD do this and wrote you glowing recommendations, the coach who believed in you even when you didn’t believe in yourself, or your friends who offered moral support through this emotionally taxing journey. Don’t forget to let them know your plans and to tell them thank you!
Make sure all of your ducks are in a row
Once you’ve officially committed to a college, be sure to stay on top of your necessary to-do’s leading up to the first day of classes. Be sure to use the summer after graduation to ensure you have everything completed to start this new journey.
Congrats again on being accepted to college!