So you’re almost ready to answer that well-intentioned though often nerve-wracking question everyone has been asking you: Where are you going to college?
Now, more than ever, it’s important to focus on your future and think about what you’d like in a college, despite where others would like for you to go. So take your time and utilize all of your resources (including this guide).
Most of all, trust yourself — this is the next four years of your life.
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1) Schedule Final College Visits
Whether or not you’ve visited campuses earlier in your search, making a visit to a few of your top choices in April is a smart decision.
Budget and schedule permitting, a college visit at this stage can be key in influencing your college decision.
That being said, try and make the most of your trip, do things such as sitting in on a class or eating lunch in the dining hall. Spend the night if possible, and meet with the financial aid office to clarify any questions. It should be your goal to immerse yourself as much as possible and answer the question: can you see yourself there?
If you can’t visit campus, find out if your college hosts spring or summer receptions for admitted students across the country. You can also look online; some colleges have Facebook groups to connect prospective students.
It is not unusual to receive a congratulatory phone call from a current student, but if the phone doesn’t ring right away, ask the admission office if you could talk with a current student. Ask them every question you have about what it’s like to go to that school. Find out what made them select the school.
If finances are a significant concern for your family, and it’s stopping you from making a college visit, know that many colleges can be flexible. Try asking the admissions office at your colleges to see if travel grants are available.
2) Compare Costs and Financial Aid Awards
If you haven’t already, it’s very important to speak with your family about your college budget. Understanding your family's financial realities will directly impact your college decision.
Be proactive and talk with your family now, so you won’t have to make a hard decision later.
First, list the total costs for each college you’re looking at, and make sure to include any scholarships or financial aid. Most colleges try to ensure that you have your need-based financial aid awards in hand early.
Compare what you’ll be expected to pay at each school. If there are dramatic differences, talk with your family about what makes sense financially and what would really stretch you or leave you with too much debt in the long run.
Be sure to answer key questions such as:
- How do the cost of the schools I’ve applied to compare?
- How much debt will I have when I graduate?
- How much aid is each school awarding me?
As always, if you need any clarification on the costs of attendance, call the financial aid office at the college you have a question about. They’re there to help you.
3) Write Your Thank You Notes
April is a great time to remember everyone who helped you throughout your entire admissions process and thank them!
Think about the teachers, coaches, counselors or friends and family who wrote letters of recommendation for you or guided you along the way. A thoughtful, hand-written note will show them your appreciation for their efforts.
Don’t limit yourself to just people who wrote letters of recommendation for you. For example, I wrote a personal thank you note for my uncle who was able to cosign an important student loan for me!
When writing your thank you notes, be sure to include what your final plan may be and how that person specifically helped you reach your goals. This might seem like just another task, but a little gratitude truly goes a long way.
4) Stay Focused
As always, be sure to keep up your good work and stay focused until you actually cross the finish line.
In terms of academics, keep your head in your schoolwork and battling that senioritis.
Remember that your final transcripts matter. You must continue to do your best work in school to ensure your enrollment at your college and to lay the foundation for success in college.
And remember, big mistakes outside the classroom can cause a college to rescind your offer of admission. So think carefully about decisions you make in and out of school.