Senior year is a whirlwind of activity. Students and their parents anticipate what is around the next corner. In late November and early December, the excitement ramps up. Many early action and early decision college application deadlines are November 1 or December 1. Shortly after those dates, students receive acceptance letters. Now what? What should a family do after receiving their college acceptance letters?
Is your family still finalizing their college applications? That’s Ok but try not to wait too long. Plenty of time for Snapchat later! Write those application supplements and submit those applications.
Back to our question…what are the next steps?
Answer…wait. I know. How anticlimactic. Families need to be patient until they have all the cards in their hands before any real decisions can be made.
In the college acceptance letters, you may have some merit scholarship award information. Some colleges have specific guidelines they adhere to for automatic merit awards. It is in their best interest to get that information to students quickly. Small private colleges in particular can give you that information pretty fast. More popular or larger schools lag behind because of the volume of applications.
We’re talking about schools that have automatic merit scholarships and/or provide a tuition discount to nearly every applicant. Colleges that award scholarships on a more competitive basis will take longer to make their decisions.
Remember, these initial figures are just that…initial figures.
Families need to wait until they receive the full financial aid award letter to get a complete picture. Because financial aid is impacted by state budgets, most financial aid letters cannot be sent out until after the budget is resolved. In most states, budgets are finalized sometime in January. Colleges may not know what money they can award until February and sometimes not until March or April because of various governmental agencies.
In the meantime?
If your student has been awarded a merit scholarship, be sure they understand the details for when they need to decide. Is it a renewable scholarship or just one year? Does it apply for all 4 years? 5 years? What are the minimum GPA and credit hour requirements to keep the scholarship?
So, sit tight. Families will have all the information they need to make an educated decision in the first few months of the new year, and all the puzzle pieces will fall in line. And be aware that the schools will be putting on the full court press to have you commit and get the best dorm room selections.
Congratulations! Students have worked so hard to reach this point. It is definitely a moment to stop and celebrate! Just remember to be patient until we have the official “financial aid award letter” in hand so we can fully understand our out-of-pocket costs to attend and how we will pay for all 4 years of education down to the penny, not just the freshmen year.