Where Will You Place Your Enrollment Deposit by May 1?!

Insider Tips for Parents and Students from Educational Consultant and University Professor Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D.

The Decisions Have Arrived!

Seniors are at the finish line of the college application process!   Congratulations!

The decisions you’ve eagerly awaited have arrived and within two short weeks — by May 1 –you will place your deposit to secure a spot as a member of the freshman class of 2019!

Your careful selection of high school courses and the myriad of activities you’ve enjoyed have shaped you personally and academically, preparing you for the next step in your educational journey.   At first glance, deciding where to enroll may not be an obvious choice. That’s a perfectly reasonable and logical reaction given the significance of the decision you are making.

Before we focus on your acceptance letters, it is necessary to accept the rejections and move on. First and foremost, accept the fact that admissions decisions are final. Instead of spending any energy to attempt to sway an admissions committee to overturn their (rejection) decision, your energy is best spent on focusing on selecting from the college acceptances.  While it’s possible that you may be offered a spot from any waitlisted schools, it’s more productive to focus on making a decision from the acceptances you’ve received. In theory, if you did your college research properly, you should be thrilled to attend any of the colleges to which you have been accepted.   Moreover, accept the fact that while you may have been perfectly qualified for the “Reach” college(s) on your list –seemingly your “first choice”, much of the process is random. Admissions decisions aren’t always a perfect reflection of your qualifications.  Instead of focusing on the rejection, let’s focus on determining your first choice from the available options.

Reassess your educational goals to arrive at an informed educational choice and financial investment!

While the cost of an undergraduate education is significant, I encourage you to begin the process of evaluating your options WITHOUT regard to financial aid.  We’ll return to this point in our blog “Interpreting and Negotiating Financial Aid” – so hold that thought!

Conduct a Comparative College Analysis 

Your enrollment decision rests on exploring the comparative advantages of the colleges offering you admission and recognizing that the reasons you applied a few months ago may no longer hold today.  Let’s explore how to conduct a comparative analysis where your goal is to produce a ranking of your options based on criteria that matter most to you.

Evaluate the distinguishing features among colleges and programs to determine colleges that are seemingly most attractive and also make observations of potential red-flags.

Visit Campus!
Unless you’re an international student, your first time on campus should not be the day dorms open for the fall semester!  Many colleges have special programs for admitted students.

If you are able to allocate the time, and especially if you haven’t already done so, visit some of the campuses that are at the top of your list.  If you need a second campus visit anywhere don’t hesitate unless the cost is prohibitive.  The cost of the wrong decision is too great.  Your parents don’t need to accompany you.     (Aside: Bring along your AP review books—you’ll observe other admitted students doing the same!)

While on campus, speak with as many currently enrolled students as possible. Ask the questions that are on your mind: i.e., the quality of professors, the workload, stress levels, financial aid after the freshman year, dorms, campus food, campus life, campus crime, availability of summer internships, graduate school placements, undergraduate research opportunities, availability of religious services, exercise facilities/club sports, Greek Life?, “best dorm” and any other factor that is important to you.

Speak to other admitted students attending the program.  These will be your peers. How did you feel about the students you were meeting?

Do Your Research!

In an earlier blog, we discussed some ways to evaluate potential colleges.    Some of these resources described earlier:

University Websites:

ACADEMICS:   Exploring a college’s website can provide you with invaluable information about “academics”. You’ll want to review available areas of study and degree requirements, faculty research and any formal research programs for undergraduates.  Explore clubs related to your major area of study (i.e. Engineers might consider Robocup!), academic support services for tutoring, career placement statistics, study abroad opportunities, or graduate application assistance (Is there a dedicated advisor for medical school applicants?).As a freshman, can you envision the courses you might consider and the available academic extracurricular activities you might take advantage of to enrich your experience? Can you identify resources where you would turn for academic assistance if needed?

: Explore the college newspaper and student center to consider campus life outside the classroom. What are the available on-campus social activities?  It’s important not only to have the academic resources for your intended area of study, but also to know that that there is more taking place than frat parties, football games or spending your evening playing video games.  Locate the listing of student clubs on the college website.  If the list isn’t robust and reflective of some of your current interests, that’s a potential red flag about how you’ll be spending your time outside of the classroom.

Imagine yourself a currently enrolled student and take note of the available activities taking place on any given weekend. Do they appeal to you?

LinkedIn’s University and Field of Study Explorer: This amazing resource is invaluable in locating schools that consistently produce well trained graduates. The tools provided are helpful for students and parents by focusing the research about colleges specifically to intended majors. There is also an option to narrow your search to colleges that best prepare you for employment at specific companies. Many schools utilize social media to provide you with a snapshot of the campus. While your most accurate way to assess campus culture is through a campus visit, social media can provide an initial impression of student life and the campus pulse.  However, avoid becoming a Facebook follower without ensuring your Facebook page provides a flattering image of yourself.  See my recent blog posting: “Social Media- College Applications- Career Connections- Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter?”

Having completed your visit and conducted research, you are position to rank order the programs and colleges of interest.  As soon as you have eliminated a school, notify the school so that another student on a waitlist can potentially have your spot.

How Much Will Your Decision Cost?

Please read our blog post:

Interpreting Your Financial Aid Award Letter? Your actual out-of-pocket cost is….