You have made it to the final leg of the college admissions process.
It is important that you keep your energy and enthusiasm high and you critical thinking skills sharp as you compare and contrast your options in this final phase. The great news is that you and your family are back in control during this last part of the process. You (not the admissions office) will decide where you will attend school next year.
As you weigh all of your options, we have developed this list of questions and ideas to consider. Choosing the best school is not a science but rather an art. Students and parents need to think through the academic opportunities offered and weigh these against the financial commitment required. Thoughtful and deliberate consideration now will help you to find the school that best fits your academic, co-curricular, and professional goals while still addressing your family’s financial concerns.
There are more than 3400 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. Each school has its own identity and campus climate. Just as each college is unique so are the needs and interests of the students that attend those institutions. No list can cover every question or concern that you might have. However, the questions and ideas that follow can be the place to start considering the positive and negative attributes of each school or program. Discovering which school will be YOUR best match requires you to explore all of your options from your new vantage point. Remember to listen to your inner voice. If something about a school or academic program or policy does not feel right to you — that is important information for you to consider.
Best of luck as you make this exciting decision, graduate from high school, and take the next steps in achieving your educational and professional goals.
Weighing all the Options: Questions for Students and Parents to Consider in the Final Phase of the College Admissions Process
Visit (or revisit) all or most of the schools that have accepted you.
Most schools will have day-long or overnight programs designed specifically for newly admitted students. This is a fantastic opportunity to see the school in light of your new admission’s status. Remember, the school has decided they want you on campus next fall. Now it is your turn to decide which campus is the best overall fit for you.
- Research the school before you get there and have your questions ready.
- Who from your high school is currently attending one of the schools you are considering? E-mail them to ask questions about their experience.
- Ask your questions when you get to campus. It is a good idea to ask the same question to more than one current student plus academic advisors or professors. This is a great way to get a different angle on the same question or issue.
- Attend a class or two.
- Meet with current students in your major or academic area of interest,
- Learn about specific campus clubs and organizations,
- Speak with professors and academic advisors who can answer specific questions about their programs.
- Participate in a campus overnight if available.
Compare financial aid packages among the schools that have offered you admission.
The schools that you are considering probably all have different costs of attendance attached to them. The financial aid offered might dramatically change how expensive a school is. Some schools offer scholarships based on academic merit, some schools only offer federal aid monies. To complicate things even more, there are many different types of loan, work, and grant programs which you and your family need to understand to compare these offers effectively.
- Based on the first year financial aid package, what is the expected loan indebtedness that the student will have at graduation? Take a look at the loan calculator on finaid.org at (http://www.finaid.org/calculators/loanpayments.phtml) to find out what those loans will cost you (the student) on a monthly basis after graduation.
- What is the financial aid appeals process? Do you believe that your financial aid package does not accurately reflect your family’s current financial situation. This often is the case if the family’s financial situation has changed over the past year. Most school’s financial aid office web page will have information on how to appeal your award.
- Are these loans federally subsidized during the student’s matriculation?
- What is the parent contribution at each school?
- Will the cost necessitate that parents take a loan to cover the Parent Contribution?
- Are the parents willing and able to take on this additional financial responsibility?
- Is the student offered work-study as part of the financial aid package.
- Are there opportunities to work (on- and off-campus) for students not eligible for work-study?
Other questions for consideration. Many of these you may have asked as a prospective student but you may want to revisit these as an accepted student.
- Do the academic programs offered meet your current educational goals?
- What if these change over time?
- What academic guidance is available to students to help them consider all the options within the school? This is especially important for students who are undecided about their major.
- Is career placement available to students for both internship and permanent positions?
- What do the students do for fun (on and off campus)?
- What is the campus environment like? Can you see yourself as a student on campus?
- Are students developing their social interests in addition to academic and professional pursuits?
- What clubs and organizations look appealing to you? Active involvement outside of the classroom will not only make your college experience more interesting and fun, but also help you to define your academic and professional goals.
- Is there a fraternity and sorority system on campus? Does that appeal to you? If not, speak with students on-campus who are not involved in Greek life and ask them about that choice.
- Where do the first-year students live? Are they housed together or spread out on campus?
Once you have made your decision
Do not place a deposit at more than one school. Schools can rescind offers if they find out you are gaming the system.
Do finish your senior year academically strong. All colleges ask and look at final high school transcripts of incoming students. If your grades drop dramatically in your last grading period you will hear from the admissions or deans office at your new school.
Do take all AP tests. Remember that the policies that determine whether your AP exam scores give you college credit vary by college. AP credit will give you academic flexibility in the years to come.
Do send your deposit ASAP. Many housing offices start placing students into dorm rooms on a “first come first serve basis.”
If you are waitlisted
§ If you want to remain on the waitlist, follow all directions carefully on how to do this.
§ Write a well written short note to the admissions office at the waitlist school to thank them for continued consideration and let them know (if this is the case) that you will definitely attend if accepted. Include any updates to your application such as academic awards, athletic or artistic achievements, or community service (attach any award notes, articles, or other information to support your letter).
§ Let your school guidance counselor know about your waitlist status and provide him or her with a copy of the letter.