In today’s competitive college market, it’s not uncommon for a student to apply to ten or more schools and receive admission offers from quite a few of them.
My daughter did and it was a bit overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong — we appreciated that it was a good problem to have and were delighted for her. But with many colleges to choose from, and the May 1st deadline looming, we needed a plan.
What do you do if your student has multiple offers of admission? Beyond comparing financial aid awards, how do you help your student make the final decision? And what if she’s wait-listed at her top choice, or feels as if she’d like to take time off before matriculating?
Begin by reexamining all the factors your student considered when applying. For each college or university, take a second — and closer — look at location, academics, the size of the student body, and other elements that made your student feel it would be a good fit. Review statistics including the freshman retention and four-year graduation rates.
It’s been months since she submitted her applications. If she got in, is she still in love with her first-choice college? Has she learned anything about the school since she applied that changes the way she views it? Has anything changed for her? Does the school still fit with her long-term academic and personal goals?
This is a good time for your student to gather information from a few trusted sources. She doesn’t need to invite everyone she knows into the decision-making process, but it can really help to consult with older siblings and friends, or teachers, coaches and counselors.
Based on this research and reflection, make a list of pros and cons for each college and compare them side-by-side. The top two or three should be evident.
A visit to campus is a crucial element in the final decision. It’s essential if your student hasn’t yet seen the college, but even if she toured it previously, you should make a visit if at all possible. Time is a consideration, and money as well if the colleges are at a distance — another good reason to narrow the choices down to just a few.
Most schools host admitted student day or overnight programs. Your student will be able to stay in a dorm, attend classes, hear panel discussions, interact with students, and explore campus. This experience can confirm your student’s decision to attend a school, or it may change her mind and cause her to gravitate toward another school. My daughter had this experience after visiting some colleges that accepted her — her first and second-choice schools switched positions.
If your student is wait-listed at her top choice, she faces a tough decision: should she remain on the list or shift her focus to the colleges which offered admission? Experts agree that wait lists are a long shot, but many wait-listed students have played the odds and been accepted (sometimes just days before the start of fall semester). If your student decides to stay on the wait list, she should be sure to:
If, despite the excitement of being accepted, your student doesn’t feel ready for college or would like to take a year off between high school and college, she has other options. Students who have been accepted to a school but want to take a gap year can defer their admittance.
Your student will need to request approval for a deferral and should carefully research the procedure, being sure to follow all instructions/meet all deadlines. She should also find out if her financial aid award will be impacted. Many colleges look favorably on gap years now and, in most cases, a request will be approved.
Other recent articles by Suzanne Shaffer:
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