It’s decision time for college!
Okay, so it is April now. You have heard from all of the schools to which you applied and hopefully have been accepted to a few. Congratulations! Now what do you do? Did you get a “yes” to your dream school? Were you waitlisted? Do you really want to be so far away from home? How do you evaluate financial aid packages? Should you stay local at a community college for two years before moving on?
So many questions for the senior who is about to make the most important decision of his or her life so far. So how do you sort it out?
If you got into your dream school and the finances are in order, you are set and very lucky! But it is not that simple for most people.
Let’s say that you are accepted to a couple of schools that match your academic goals equally how do you decide? Well, first, were you accepted to the major to which you applied? If you applied to a school where your major is highly ranked, but you were accepted to the school and not your major, you need to ask some questions. Can you waitlist for the major? If you do, what are the chances of acceptance? If not, how hard is it to transfer into the major after entering as undeclared? If you cannot get assurances to these questions, then move to the next school on your list. The same questions apply to being waitlisted to a school. Since decisions need to be made by May 1, what are the chances that you will have an acceptance by then? It is okay to contact admissions counselors and ask these questions.
Is the school an acceptable distance from home? This is a difficult question for many students from Hawaii. Unless you are headed for UH, your closest option is almost 2,400 miles away. Maybe when it was time to apply, going to the East Coast seemed like a great idea, but now you are not sure. How does that feel for you and your family? Is traveling home for the holidays a priority? Can you afford that? Does the school have on campus housing if you are unable to fly home for the holidays? Is the program on the East Coast better than the one on the West Coast? If yes, HOW much better? These are the questions you need to answer before you make that final choice.
What about those financial aid packages? Scholarships are the best (free money!), either academic or talent (sports, music, art, etc.), but keep in mind that you will need to maintain certain GPAs or meet standards of some sort for talent awards to keep those scholarships.
If you were offered need-based aid, make sure you understand the impact other scholarships may have on the amount of aid offered. Students are required to tell their college about any outside scholarships they receive. In some cases, schools will reduce the financial aid packages offered to students because they won this additional money. When considering loans, of course you will want to borrow at the lowest rate of interest. Make sure your family has explored all loan options, especially with recent changes to the tax laws.
Sometimes, finances will make the decision for you. If you were not given the financial aid needed to attend school beyond home, that’s okay. Go to community college and excel where you can. Take those general education classes where it does not cost so much. This can put you in a great position for transferring to an even better school than the ones where you were admitted straight out of high school and possibly open doors to scholarship opportunities. Transfer expectations are not as high as admissions direct from high school, so save your money, do your best work and apply to transfer the degree is the same in the end. (Seriously, Auntie knows this one firsthand!)
May 1 is the deadline for ALL admission decisions to be made. Don’t be late! You should commit to and make a deposit to only one school. As a courtesy, you should also notify all schools that you are NOT attending to let them know, so they can offer your spot to a waitlisted student. Whatever you decide, congratulations and enjoy your last month of high school!
(Maryanne Hogan is an Independent College Admissions Consultant working with students on Maui. Visit her website, thecollegeauntie.com, for more information.)