By: Brittany Clausman
University of Michigan 2015, Bachelor of Arts in Communications

By this point, many of you have or are in the process of submitting your college applications. Typically, if you apply early, a response will be heard from a college by December, but this doesn’t mean that all will come around that time. Many of our clients here at Parros College Planning are already receiving acceptance letters from some of their colleges. While the joy of acceptance may be great, it doesn’t mean that the process for getting into (or paying for) college is over. Once you receive responses from your colleges, there are a few important steps you will need take. Here’s a quick overview to make sure you understand the next steps after receiving your acceptance letter.

1. Read Your Acceptance Letter Carefully
Generally, the colleges that you applied to have three options for a response; they can accept you, deny you, or waitlist you. Of course, it’s obvious what it means when a college accepts or denies you, but there’s a bit more to consider if you are waitlisted. Be sure to read your letter carefully, as there may be some extra work on your part after receiving a ‘waitlist’ letter. If you still want to attend this college, you may have to contact them in order to maintain your spot on the waitlist. However, being waitlisted doesn’t mean you should take a break in your college planning. At Parros College Planning, we work with you to create a plan on what to do if you are unsure what steps to take after being waitlisted.
If you are accepted, congratulations! Please take this time to be aware of any necessary deadlines. You’ll most likely need to know when you will need to accept your invitation to join the college, when to submit your deposit, or other pivotal deadlines. An acceptance letter is usually quite thick, so make you give yourself some quality time to go over it with a fine-toothed comb.

2. Be on the Look-Out for your Award Letter
While getting your acceptance letter is great, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Please understand that there is a difference between your acceptance letter and your award letter. You will most likely be receiving your award letter sometime in March or April, after you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Completion of your FAFSA can be done on January 1st, and we recommend you not make any final decision until you have received your award letter. Your college needs all this information in order to know just how much they will offer you towards the cost of attendance. This amount is essential in determining which college you will be attending.
It’s important that you and your family understand what the school is offering you and what you can afford based on their offer. Try to consider the school that offers you the most scholarships and grants toward the cost of attendance, and keep an eye out for schools that primarily offer loans.

3. Contact the School if you still have questions
Acceptance letters and award letters frequently involve a lot of paperwork in the mail. It’s a good thing when you get that thick acceptance packet, but it also means that there may be a few requirements in the packet you are unsure about. If you have any questions regarding your acceptance, timeline or financial assistance based on your award letter, don’t hesitate; call or email a representative from the school as soon as possible. These people are there to help you, and there is no question that is undeserving of an answer. Keep in mind though, that college is considered your first big step into adulthood and maturity. Be respectful and take the initiative to call yourself, not your parents.

4. Visit (or Revisit)
If you are contemplating between a few colleges, the time between when you receive your acceptance letter and when you need to pay your deposit is an opportune chance to visit or revisit the campuses. Many people think it’s easy once you receive your letter, but there are so many different things that may be making you question whether or not you want to make a final commitment to a certain college.
Take the time to check out the city, sit in on a few classes, and meet with administrators to discuss the college’s atmosphere. This would also be a great opportunity to meet with students who are currently enrolled and to ask them about their opinions and experiences at the college.

5. Continue to do preparation for college
Even if you have been accepted, you may want to continue to apply or wait for responses from other colleges. It never hurts to give yourself more than one option, and if you continue to apply and receive acceptance, it means that you can plan the best route for success. Parros College Planning recommends that you apply to about 6-8 schools, considering both schools you could easily be accepted to and schools that may be a reach. The more schools, the better your chances of receiving not only a variety of options for your future, but also the increased chance of higher financial assistance. Waiting before you send your notification that you plan on attend could be the best for you and your wallet.

6. General keep up
If you have received your award letter and know for certain that you plan to send your deposit to one specific school, there’s still a bit more general upkeep you’ll need to do. You will have until May 1st to commit to the school, although if you do get a scholarship offered in your original acceptance letter you must make sure that the school will honor it if you wait until May 1st. Also, make sure you keep your grades up; acceptance is conditional, you must finish your senior year strong. Even with your letter in hand, colleges will still require your final transcripts, and if they see a dip in your grades, they have the option of rescinding your acceptance. It can get difficult to sometimes move passed the proverbial ‘senioritis,’ but it’s in your best interest to make sure you keep an eye on your grades. Just remember, you’re almost there!
After all is said and done, review your selected college’s website. You will need to contact them and submit all the required paperwork to finally be fully accepted into that college. Also be sure to contact the schools you do not plan to attend.

As you all know, college is a process. That process doesn’t just start with your first college application submission, and it doesn’t just end with your acceptance letter. It’s important to you, and it’s important to us at Parros College Planning that you know all the steps in order to gain acceptance into your dream college. The devil’s in the details, and making sure you know the basics is key to guaranteeing the best results.