As Suzanne notes in Parent College Coach Tip #7, the ball is in your court. There are some things you need to know.
Prepare to be wooed.
The schools that have offered you admission are hoping you accept, but they know there is a good chance that you won’t. Soak up everything they send, and get serious about doing your own research if you are still undecided. You will be getting calls, letters, and emails. Take them as opportunities to ask questions!
Do not feel pressured to commit earlier than the deadline.
You have until May 1 to accept the offer. Yes, you do. May 1 is the National Candidates’ Reply Date, and colleges cannot force you to commit prior to this day. Some schools will play hard ball here, not because they are disreputable, but only because the sooner they get positive admissions numbers, the happier their bosses will be. (It helps them plan for big issues like budgeting and housing, too. While no one enjoys the business side of admissions, it’s a reality, and honestly you do want to attend a school that’s on top of the administrative stuff!) Colleges can offer strong encouragement to reply sooner, but they cannot make it an undue burden on you if you wait until the deadline to accept.
But don’t miss the deadline.
Universities are under absolutely no obligation to take you after the deadline, so treat May 1 as an absolute. If you are placed on the wait list at your first-choice institution, you need to secure yourself a spot at a college from which you’ve received an offer by May 1. Should you be accepted from the wait list after May 1, it is perfectly fine to “un-accept” the offer at your second choice, but know you will most likely have to forfeit your deposit. (If you have a severe financial hardship situation, talk to the schools that have offered you admission well before May 1 to see if a reduced amount might be acceptable.)
Don’t fall for lipstick and mascara.
Colleges are going to be putting their best face forward and showing you all the highlights. If there are things you need to know, ASK. Now is the time.
When comparing financial aid and scholarship packages, take care that you are comparing apples to apples. While a slimmer bottom line for one school can look most tempting at the beginning, be sure you aren’t signing on for high loan payments later, if you can avoid them. The College Board has a handy compare aid calculator to get you started.
Be kind. Decline.
For the colleges whose offers you did not accept, do them the courtesy of declining officially. Many have online forms, or a simple email or letter will do. Be courteous. This is grown-up stuff here, and now would be a bad time to burn bridges. You just never know who you might run into later on your educational journey.
As the Parent College Coach said, you’ve been admitted to college and you are in charge. Make an informed choice for the next chapter in your life!