If you just got accepted to college, congratulations! You can breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate your accomplishment.
After the initial euphoria of an acceptance offer wears off, you may find yourself asking, “Now what?” Before you commit to a school, use our guide to making a smart college decision after acceptance letters roll in.
Wait for More Acceptance Letters
The best way to make a smart college decision is to remain patient and weigh all your options. Don’t let your excitement cause you to make a rash decision. Assuming you applied to multiple colleges, you will probably find yourself considering several offers, which is exactly where you want to be.
Keep in mind that the national decision deadline is May 1st, and many colleges also use the May 1st as their deadline for you to respond with intent to attend their school.
Although much of the process is out of your hands at this point, it’s still a good idea to form a game plan and use your time wisely as you wait. This includes gathering any additional materials schools may request and following up with admissions if it’s been several weeks of silence since you sent in your application. However, it’s important to stay polite and avoid badgering these administrators. That won’t help your cause.
Review Your Major Options
While it’s not necessary to have your entire career trajectory mapped out when you enroll in college, you should know what subjects interest you. Once you determine what you’d like to study, use that to narrow down your program of study and college choice if you haven’t already.
The college’s cost, location and culture may check all your boxes. But if you’re a math and science person, you’re probably not going to excel in a liberal arts college known for their fine arts programs. Choosing a college major that aligns with your academic and career interests should be at the top of your list when identifying where to enroll.
Compare College Costs
Chances are, the college applications you sent out included a few “reach schools.” If you were pleasantly surprised and got accepted, congratulations! However, it’s important to note that this college may have been a reach for more reasons than just the academic admissions requirements.
Highly coveted colleges often come with a matching price tag. If you can get a quality education, internships and research opportunities elsewhere for half the cost, picking your “reach school” may not make the most sense. Plus, you’re much less likely to receive valuable academic scholarships to your dream college than to a school that’s a closer match. Did you get a great scholarship and grant package at your second- or third-choice school? That may be too good an opportunity to pass up.
Don’t forget to include less obvious costs of college when making your choice. These include travel, transportation and extracurricular activities that could push your total costs higher than expected.
Critique the Culture
Virtually all colleges look great on their admissions brochures. To get a real glimpse at the college culture, you need to dig a little deeper. After all, you’ll be spending four years there. You need to know you’re picking a college that is right for you.
The best way to get a feel for a college is to visit it in person and talk to students around campus. Can’t make it for a visit? Many schools offer videos, interviews and other online content to help you get to know their college better. At USF, we recently launched a popular online virtual tour so you can meet students, tour the grounds and see other campus highlights.
How to Overcome Senioritis
Yes, your senior year matters. A lot. Colleges want to know you’re still working hard in high school and getting ready to transition to the academic rigor you’ll face your freshman year.
In fact, your offer to college is often contingent on your continued performance in high school. If your final high school transcript shows a major drop in grades, that’s a red flag that you may not be mature enough to handle the increased responsibility and pressure of college. If that’s the case, colleges are well within their rights to rescind their offer of admission.
Respond to Your College Offers
After following all these steps and discussing your options with trusted friends and family, you should be ready to respond to the offers you received from colleges. If you’re planning to commit to a college, complete the steps in your admissions offer to secure your spot. These steps will probably include your submission of an acceptance letter, a deposit, and a housing application, among other items. If you have any questions about completing these requirements, be sure to reach out to the admissions team as soon as possible.
If you’re declining an admission offer, send a professional note declining their invite but thanking them for considering you. Promptly responding allows colleges to offer your spot to other students and reflects well on you. Plus, these enrollment professionals spent a lot of time reviewing your application, so you should acknowledge their efforts. Who knows? You may decide to pursue an advanced degree there in the future.
We covered a lot of material in this article. For an abridged version you can refer back to and share with friends, download our free “Smart Guide to College Acceptance.”
About Daniel Goodson
Daniel Goodson is a former Content Developer for USF’s Office of Innovative Education. He enjoys helping students and their families streamline the college application process by sharing new trends that impact outreach, applying, and admissions.