After spending months searching for and applying to schools, letters of acceptance may seem like the last step in your college application process. It could come as a surprise that students may need to do more than just press an “accept” button.
Because students have worked hard over the last few months focusing on choosing the right school, it’s important to make sure students are finalizing their acceptance correctly. Even after acceptance, there are still a few more steps to complete before you can finally sit back and take a breath. Contacting schools directly and getting in contact with other admitted students can help you build a better connection to your school.
Both Tessa Lippmann (‘21) and Emerson Moore (‘21) are seniors this year who applied early for their first choice, and have committed. This application style binds students into attending should they be accepted, rather than early action or regular decision, where you can make a choice where to go at a later date.
“It’s been kind of stressful, but also I think it’s been easier than past years, with people deferring last year [due to COVID-19],” Moore explained. Some schools give students the option to defer a semester or year, allowing them to remain enrolled in the school but with a later start date. “Schools have been really anxious to get kids into the school and people paying tuition so the schools can make money, so I think that made it just a little bit easier for people to get in.” Moore has been accepted into Syracuse University for the fall of 2021.
Moore knows which school he is going to earlier then others because applying early decision means his commitment is binding. This isn’t the case for other students who applied regular or early action. “Admissions decisions come in at different times, so some kids may [hear from] every school, while others are still waiting,” explained Jason Baker, a school counselor at ORHS. “While they’re waiting on other schools to see if they’ve gotten in, they should be doing a few things. You want to double check if it’s a college you really like, that they accepted you at the right time with your actual intended major. For most students this year, you would want to make sure you’ve been accepted for the fall of 2021 term.”
Both Baker and Lippmann suggested drawing out a list of what you want in your school, then cross-reference with the schools you applied to. This will allow for you to see on paper which schools best fit what you’re looking for. These could be things like: location, school size, campus style, athletic teams, and programs for studying abroad.
You’ll also want to pay attention to what financial benefits schools are offering you. “Make sure everything looks right for what they’re offering you for acceptance,” said Baker. “Also look at what schools are offering you financial aid: either merit or scholarship money that you’ve earned that you don’t have to pay back, or financial aid like loans, which is something you do have to pay back, so you want to start looking at that stuff to see how much it’s going to cost you to go to the school.” Baker added that later in the winter and early spring, students should look and apply for local scholarships to get more money for next year.
With the state of the world as a result of COVID-19, Baker also recommended that students pay attention to what kind of learning models schools are offering. “Figure out whether the school has a remote, hybrid, or in-person model, and how that may affect you,” said Baker. These models could be subject to change. If you’re concerned about what the state of the pandemic could look like in another 6 months, Baker recommends looking at the school’s policy for deferring, so you can attend when you feel safe.
After you’ve made the decision on which school you will be enrolling in, there are still a few steps before you can celebrate. “I had to then pay a fee to secure my place, and then I had to go through and withdraw the rest of my applications,” Lippmann said. “With some schools, there’s forms you can fill out [to withdraw your application], with others I just emailed the admissions teams. Then that’s all I had to do.” Lippmann applied early decision, so for a student that didn’t, the process could look different.
Baker continued with instructions to enrolling in the school you chose. “When you’re accepted, they usually tell you what they’re going to need from you when you’ve made your decision and when they need it by. So every school’s different, but a really common commitment deadline is around May 1st for non early decision applicants. There is usually something like an intent to enroll form or through your application portal you probably have to go through and indicate that you’re enrolling. And then the other big thing is submitting that financial deposit, that is the non-refundable [payment].”
After you’ve finished accepting your school, you can focus on getting involved in the school community. There are plenty of remote options to connect with other students, clubs, or coaches within your school of choice. “When I got accepted, I heard about and joined the Facebook page, a GroupMe, and the Instagram page for my graduating class. I’ve done Zoom calls with a bunch of the other accepted students, which is so nice to meet a bunch of people,” Lippmann said.
Likewise, Moore was able to join different social media platforms where students who were accepted could meet. “There’s a GroupMe, for the class of ‘25, a Snapchat group chat, and an Instagram where you can post pictures and a bio about yourself to see who’s going to the school.”
For students who have been under a great deal of pressure during college application season, Moore and Lippmann remind the stress is only temporary. For those who applied regular decision or early action, there is most likely a good amount of time before your decision must be made. It’s best to make these big decisions with a positive mindset, as Moore reminds students that “the next chapter is always better than the one before.”