If you spent the fall semester of your senior year of high school applying to college, rejoice! Your applications are in, and you have but one semester of high school left to go. That deserves a congratulations in its own right, but don’t get too carried away with the celebrations. The application process isn’t quite over yet. Here’s what you need to be doing this spring.
Update the FAFSA.
If you haven’t yet filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), chop chop! It became available for the 2017–2018 school year on October 1 of last year, and your prospective schools would like to receive your FAFSA results ASAP so that they can begin calculating your financial aid package. No need to wait to file 2016 taxes either; the FAFSA changed its rules last year, so you can now use your family’s tax information from 2015, which should already be available.
Apply for private scholarships while you wait for admissions decisions to roll in.
Unless you applied early decision or early action, you probably won’t hear back from the schools you applied to until March or April. Not only does that mean you won’t know about acceptances, but you won’t know about financial aid either. That waiting game can be agonizing, so why not busy yourself in the meantime? There are thousands of private scholarships out there, which means that some are accepting applications right now! Use this time to search and apply for scholarships; they’ll come in handy if you receive a less-than-expected financial aid package. Get started here.
Collect all of your admissions and financial aid offers before making your final decision.
It can be tempting to enroll at the first school that accepts you so that you can be done with the headache of the application process, but not so fast! Unless you receive an acceptance and a dazzling financial aid package from your top school, that’s not the best course of action. Every school has its own tuition costs and will offer you its own financial aid package, which means it’s best to wait to hear back from all of the schools you applied to before you commit to one. That way, you can compare your offers of acceptance and financial aid and pick the one that best fits your needs.
Accept or decline your spot on any waitlists.
Being on a waitlist can feel like you’re in limbo, which makes it difficult to firm up your future plans. Compare your waitlist offers with your acceptance offers. On the off chance that you received an acceptance (and great financial aid) from your top school, it’s simple: Go ahead and decline your spot on any waitlists you’re on. On the other hand, if you’re waitlisted at the school of your dreams, be realistic. It’s not guaranteed that you’ll eventually get in, so don’t decline all of your other acceptance offers just yet. Make a backup plan and decide on your second-best option. If you never escape the clutches of the waitlist, you’ll have another school to look forward to attending.
Visit during a prospective students’ weekend.
If you’re still having trouble weighing your acceptance offers, visit your top choices. Many schools have a weekend of activities for accepted students, and that time on campus could be enough to sway your decision one way or the other. Talk to as many students as you can, and listen to your gut.
Accept an admissions offer and send in the deposit.
To reserve your spot in the incoming class at the school of your choice, you’ll likely need to send in your deposit to the school by the national deadline of May 1. Every school has its own requirements, so check your acceptance package for more information.
Accept your financial aid offer.
Accepting a grant is a no-brainer; it doesn’t need to be paid back. If you are offered loans or work-study, on the other hand, consider them carefully. Work-study provides you with a paid job, but some students decide to postpone the opportunity until spring semester when they have a better handle on the college workload. With regard to loans, it is often a better idea to take out federal student loans than private ones, as the interest rate is better. Get in touch with your chosen school’s financial aid office for more information about your aid package.
Contact the schools you will not be attending.
As soon as you know that you won’t be attending a college, let its admissions office know. It’s a courtesy to students on the waitlist who would be thrilled to have a spot in the incoming class. Your acceptance letter to each school should contain detailed instructions on how to decline an offer of admission. Some schools might request that you decline their offers in writing. If so, be gracious. If you were in contact with any admissions officers, don’t forget to thank them for their time.
Finish high school strong.
You worked hard to get into college, so don’t even think about succumbing to senioritis now. Colleges have the right to rescind offers of admission for certain reasons: a drastic drop in your GPA, an arrest, a suspension, etc. Keep up the good work, and you’ll have nothing to worry about.
Send your final transcripts to your chosen institution.
Most seniors in high school receive college admissions offers based, in part, on their mid-year transcripts, but you’ll also need to send your end-of-year grade report to the college of your choice as soon as it becomes available. So, think of that as another incentive to keep your grades up.
Take IB or AP tests.
While your results on IB and AP tests no longer matter in terms of impressing an admissions committee, high scores on this year’s tests may qualify you to skip introductory classes in college or give you a certain number of college credit hours (thereby reducing your workload). Check with your college to find out its AP/IB credit policy.
You’ve put in a lot of hard work already, but don’t quit yet! The end of application season really is in sight. The sooner you complete the tasks on your to-do list, the sooner it’ll all be behind you.