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  • Writer's pictureJason Flurry, CFP

You’re ready to make a final college decision. Now what?

One thing you realize about the college planning process once you’re in it is that it takes a very long time to complete everything. There are so many emotional peaks and valleys, things to accomplish, and milestones to reach. And then finally, after months and often years of work and waiting, you finally get the results you’ve been hoping for. It’s a very exciting moment, but even then it can still be one that’s filled with anxiety and uncertainty.

Today I’m going to talk about what to do when you do get into the college of your dreams and what next steps to take to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible and not missing anything important.

In my last article, I talked about the sales choreography that colleges use and how they make every effort to make you feel like they’re in charge of the relationship. Since you get to make the final decision, you’re actually the one in charge and you should use that position of power to your advantage whenever possible. If you’ve done that well up to this point by negotiating your merit scholarships and financial aid awards, you may have reached a point now where you finally understand what your fair share of the bill is at each college on your list. If that’s a level that’s acceptable to you and you have a game plan to pay for college that you’re confident is going to work, it’s likely time to make your final college decision.

What’s next? In just about every admission acceptance letter, colleges give you instructions on what next steps to take. Usually they include accepting their offer for admissions by making an admissions deposit to secure your spot. They may also encourage you to go ahead and make a housing deposit to hold your place in line, which can be a very important thing to do, especially in situations where colleges don’t have enough housing availability for freshmen. Admission deposits are usually nonrefundable, but if you change your mind and decide to go to a different college, you can often get a refund on your housing deposit if you let them know before any final deadlines pass.

With this in mind, it is possible to accept admission offer at more than one school. You can put as many deposits down as you’d like. Just know that you can obviously only attend one college, so if you make multiple deposits to hold your place while you’re negotiating financial aid or waiting on additional information at one of your reach colleges, you’re going to be out however much that was at the colleges you ultimately decide against. Depending on how much they require for deposit, which is usually a couple of hundred dollars or so, that might be an investment worth making.

Once you’ve accepted their offer for admissions and made your admission and housing deposits, the next step is to accept your financial aid package. If the only thing you’re accepting is a merit award, it’s usually automatically accepted when you accept their offer for admissions. You probably don’t have anything else to do to lock that award in.

If you’ve applied for need-based financial aid, you usually do have to take additional steps to accept their grants and scholarships and to select which loans, if any, you plan to use. That’s done through the student portal, and depending on what you choose, there may be some follow-up steps to take to finalize everything there. I’ll talk about that more in a future article.

Sorry you missed me At this point, you have your admissions, housing, scholarships, grants, and maybe loans and work-study position securely in place. You’re in and everything is official. Congratulations! Now, as a courtesy, it’s a good idea to notify the other colleges where you’ve applied that you won’t be accepting their offers. They’re holding a place for you and it’s helpful to them to be able to free up your spot for other potential candidates since you’ve decided to go elsewhere. Simply thank them for their offer in an email to the Admissions department, and then you can close the books on that particular college.

The final countdown Most students are pretty excited about making their final college decision in many people really try to make it as early as possible. In some cases, though, you’re either waiting on additional information or maybe just undecided on which one is the right one for you. That’s okay. The final admission deadline is May 1 of the student’s senior year in high school. You have until midnight on May 1 to make that decision, but after that, the colleges’ offers for admission and scholarships expire.

If you have extenuating circumstances that push you past the May 1st deadline, such as a pending financial aid appeal or the need to get additional information into your file because there was an error somewhere, you can work with Admissions and Financial Aid to request an extension. This is a highly unusual situation, but don’t be afraid to ask for more time if you’re waiting for something critical that may influence their decision or your decision.

It’s party time! When you finally reach your final decision for college, it’s a major achievement and definitely something worth celebrating. You’ve come a long way and accomplished a lot to get here. Be sure to take some time to savor the moment and thank everyone who helped you along the way. Getting through high school and making it into college is a team effort. Throw a party, have a special dinner, or just do something fun that involves everyone who had a part in your success.

If you follow the steps I’ve been sharing with you in my articles and taken advantage of the insights I’ve shared on my Making College Affordable podcast, I’m confident that you’ve gotten far better results than you would have otherwise. Congratulations to you on your achievements and on improving your chances to beat the colleges at their own game.

On the other hand, if you’re not that far along in your planning yet, but want to be confident that you’ve done your best and gotten the best results possible for those you care about most, schedule a call with a College Planning Specialist today and take advantage of the experience, expertise, and personal attention they can offer. No one else can help you at the level a College Planning Specialist can, and if you’d like to learn more about the differences between a Specialist and other college advisors, request my free report: How To Know If You’re Working With The Right Kind Of College Planner.

Until next time, keep up the good work and I’ll keep bringing you more insights that will help you make college affordable.



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