Congratulations! Your student has been accepted — perhaps to one college, perhaps to several. Your student may be facing a difficult decision, or she may know exactly where she wants to go. Either way, you and your student may be wondering what you do next.
Once your student has been accepted, next steps will depend on whether she needs more information before making her decision or whether that decision is made.
Making the decision
If your student has received multiple acceptances and is in the process of deciding which college to choose, gather as much information as possible about the colleges, and review what your student is looking for in a college.
- Talk to your student about the factors that are important to him. Large or small college environment? Urban, suburban, rural? How far from home? Extracurricular activities? Major or special program? Each student will have different priorities. It is important that your student think about his.
- Review all financial aid packages and information. Circle back with financial aid offices if you need more information or want to have your package reviewed.
- Visit the campus. This is especially important if your student has not visited prior to this. If this is a second visit, try to go with an open mind — as if this was a first visit. See how it feels at this point — which may be several months since your student was there last.
- Have your student ask any questions that he can think of. Encourage him to talk to current students and to ask admissions officers who else might talk with him. He’ll want to have as much information as possible.
- Remind your student that there is no perfect college. Your student’s experience will be what she makes of it.
This is not an easy stage for students. Making the final decision may be more difficult than waiting to receive that acceptance letter. Be patient and allow your student to work through the decision. Weigh in, but remember that this must be his decision.
Decision made — what’s next?
Perhaps your student has already made her decision about which college to attend. Although in some ways this feels like the finish line of the college application process (and you’ve made it through!), this is just the beginning of the journey. What do you and your student do now?
- Make your deposit. May 1 is the national ”Intent to Register” date. Your student should make her deposit as soon as she knows where she wants to go, but no later than May 1. It is unethical to deposit at more than one institution so this should be carefully considered.
- Let the other schools know that you will not be attending. They will want to be able to fill that space with someone else.
- Revisit the campus if you can. It will look different now that it is your student’s own campus. Attend any events scheduled for accepted students. Now is the time to begin to make connections.
- Your student might write to faculty in his major. Faculty members are often pleased to hear from their incoming students in their areas. If your student has questions, he should feel free to ask.
- Review financial aid packages and clarify anything that is unclear.
- Investigate additional costs. Are there additional fees that your student should be planning for? What is the typical cost of textbooks? Are there alternatives to ordering from the college bookstore? Plan now to prevent surprises later.
- Make the housing deposit. This is usually separate from the registration deposit.
- Ask how residence halls are assigned. Should your student make a request? Are there forms to be completed?
- Ask how roommates are assigned. There may be a housing form to complete.
- Ask about summer orientation dates and registration. Make travel or hotel arrangements.
- Ask how and when class schedules are completed.
- Find out how and when e-mail accounts are assigned and whether there is a school Portal or announcement system. Your student can get started right away connecting with the life of the college and with other students. Perhaps there is a Facebook page for incoming students.
- Take any placement tests that are required.
- Begin to complete other required forms. Make doctor’s appointments and schedule vaccinations. Review health insurance and ask whether your student may waive required college insurance if she is covered by your plan.
- Find the college calendar and mark important dates. You may want to make Family Weekend hotel reservations right away.
- If your student will need any special services — disability services, food accommodations, special housing — this is a good time for your student to communicate with school personnel. It will be busier in the summer.
- Be patient. At some schools, work with incoming students may not begin until after the end of the current school year. College personnel are still busy with the current students. Although they may be happy to speak with your student, they may ask her to call again later.
- Encourage your student to handle the above suggestions and make contacts and calls rather than you. This is the perfect time for your student to begin to take charge of his college experiences. He may need you to guide him, but insist that he do as much as possible himself.
The college application process is a long and arduous one. Once the final acceptance decision has been made, you and your student may want to take a break. Of course your student will need to be working to maintain his grades through the end of senior year, but he should also begin to think about next year. Completing some of these items during the spring will mean a more relaxed and less stressful summer and will also help your student begin to make the transition from high school student to college student.