Hitting “submit” for that final college application produces myriad feelings: a deep sense of relief that the process is done coupled with the anxiety of knowing that you now must wait for college decisions. Perhaps you’re simply exhausted and ready to catch up on your favorite Netflix series and spend Saturdays doing something other than writing essays or taking college entrance exams. Before you dismiss all further thoughts of college applications, however, consider these few critical tasks in order to stay on top of things as you await college decisions. Check out what to do after applying to college.
1. Stay organized and remain on top of deadlines
Much like you monitored the calendar as you filled out and submitted college applications, you’ll want to stay organized and keep an eye on any remaining deadlines. Chances are, you applied to several colleges, so if you haven’t already, you’ll want to note important dates, such as when colleges release decisions (some schools have a fixed date or dates; others have a range of notification days). Pay attention to when you need to make your final decision: remember, you can only attend one college, and many schools will ask you to make your decision by May 1, if not sooner! Let colleges know if you won’t be enrolling, in order to free up space for another student waiting for a spot in the incoming class. You may also have to submit final copies of ancillary materials, like official score reports and transcripts, by a certain deadline in order to secure your spot at that school. You may also need to complete a housing application if you wish to live on campus. As you did with application deadlines, keep track of these follow-up tasks and due dates.
2. Apply for the range of financial aid
As you wait for colleges to release decisions, you’ll want to ensure that you’ve completed any forms for financial aid, including but not limited to scholarships, grants, and loans. Most colleges will require submission of the FAFSA (and sometimes the CSS) by a certain date in order to maximize your chances for receiving the appropriate amount of need-based financial aid. Be sure that you’ve filed these important documents early if you will need assistance paying for college. Many colleges automatically consider you for merit-based scholarships when you file your application, and many have priority scholarship deadlines. As noted above, ensure that you’re tracking all deadlines, not only application due dates. Furthermore, if you haven’t started applying for scholarships during the summer before your senior year, you may not be too late! While awaiting college admission decisions, use scholarship search engines like FastWeb and GoingMerry to seek out and apply for scholarships.
3. Develop a plan to pay for college
Even if your family isn’t planning to apply for need-based financial aid, you should still use the time following application submissions to plan how you’ll pay for college. By now, you know that college isn’t cheap, and if you haven’t had the conversation with your family about how you’ll afford the costs, now is the time! First, you’ll need to find out what financial responsibility you’ll have when it comes to paying for college. Will your parents cover all expenses? Will you have to take out any loans? You and your family must sit down and map out a monthly college budget plan that includes such things as tuition, room and board, and other mandatory fee payments, along with a plan for paying for books and other incidentals. You’ll likely want to set aside some money for entertainment. How much will you need and what will be the source of your pocket money? Will you need a job or paid internship to help cover college expenses? Your parents or other family members may have set aside money in the form of a 529 plan or other investments. Be sure that you understand how to access and apply these funds for your college finances. Have this conversation early, then adjust as needed throughout your four years at college.
4. Keep your social media accounts in check
Social media has become an increasingly important way for college admission officers to get to know you, so while you await decisions – and even after you receive them – you’ll want to ensure that you maintain a clean social media presence. What does that mean, exactly? Follow social media best practices – never post anything that others may deem inappropriate. Use your social media accounts to your advantage by creating posts that reveal you and your passions in the most positive light possible! For instance, share highlights of the newly-acquired piano skills you picked up during quarantine, or results from your most recent athletic tournament. Remember that your social media posts say much more about you than you think, so make your online presence a positive, thoughtful one.
5. Take a moment to disconnect and relax
Of course, as you wait for decisions, you’ll want to take some time to relax. You’ve worked hard throughout the college application process, so set aside time to decompress. Allow yourself to de-stress and start getting excited for the next step in your application journey – deciding where you’ll call home for over the next four years!
Stay mindful of the above steps following submission of your college applications. Yes, you’ll have some important tasks to complete, and you’ll want to stay on top of those as you move into the spring of your senior year and prepare to graduate.
This post was written by Barbara Leventhal of JRA Educational Consulting and Score Academies. Since 1980, thousands of families have turned to Judi Robinovitz, Certified Educational Planner, and her team of seasoned professionals to help them choose, apply to, and get admitted to their “best fit” schools, colleges, and graduate schools. Check them out at https://www.jraeducationalconsulting.com/