There’s one question on everyone’s mind right now: “Will I get in, or not?”

Even without a crystal ball to tell us the future, there are still some things we know will likely be in your college decision letter.

A Decision

Okay, this seems obvious. But it’s not as direct as you might think. You could get a Yes, or a “No”..... or something inbetween. The two main alternatives to a clean answer are “Conditional Admission” or “Waitlisted.”

Conditional admission means they’ll accept you if you can meet some condition, normally that your final semester’s grades are good or that you take a summer class or an additional test.

Waitlisted means they’ll accept you only if enough other people turn their own offer of acceptance.

What will you hear? Not all schools do conditional acceptance, but many do waitlisting. If that’s the answer you get, don’t be miffed. Getting into college is more competitive every year. Keep your chin up! (And your grades, too.)

A Financial Offer

Calculating how much college actually costs can be difficult. Knowing your financial offers sure helps. Ideally, you’ll open your letter and read the words “full ride scholarship!” Unfortunately, the reality is that people often don’t get as much financial aid from their schools as they’d like. Students--and their families--have been picking up a greater share of college costs, normally though loans.

How will you pay? Unless you’ve applied to an affordable school (the average published tuition at private 4-years is about $28,000 more per year than in-state community colleges), your application process probably won’t be even close to finished! Now you’ll need to start applying to scholarships and filling out your FAFSA. Say hello again to your old friend “application essays.” (Psst... this is a major reason that American Honors program exists, to help make great college educations affordable.)

Promotional Materials…. wait, what?

So here’s the thing about your acceptance packet: if they told you anything other than “no,” then the ball is in your court. You can still turn down the college (in fact, lots of students do.) So, the school will make sure you know just how fantastic their school really is, because they want you to say “yes!” Their promotional materials are normally pretty slick, but they’re also full of a lot of useful information. Don’t ignore them.

What should you do? Consider it carefully! Somewhere around 1 in 3 college students transfer. Unless you chose a path like American Honors, where you start an affordable 2-year school and then transfer as part of your plan, then make sure you’re picking a place you really want to be at ( for). 

No matter what your letter says, you’ll have options either way. Now’s a great time to ask: do you need to apply to just one more college?

Authored by Jared Meyer

Jared specializes in communication in higher education. He writes about getting into college and succeeding once you're there. He's the editor of the American Honors Blog.