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You’re Accepted to College! Now What?

by Bethany Goldszer | Last Updated: February 14, 2021

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Getting accepted to college will be the first of many great accomplishments in your life. After crafting the perfect application – taking SAT exams, preparing for interviews, and writing essays that best captures you — the hard work paid off. But what comes next?

Celebrate and share the news

To be sure, many people helped you along the way. Your parents will likely be the first to know the good news. But don’t forget to reach out to teachers, school counselors, coaches, and anyone who wrote a recommendation letter, edited an essay, or gave you words of encouragement. This good news goes a long way in making them feel appreciated and sharing a happy ending to the story of where you’ll go next in your journey.

Read the financial aid award letter

Sometimes after you are accepted to college, financial aid packages arrive simultaneously when you hear back from admissions. But many times, the award letter arrives 2-3 weeks later. If you have not received your package by then, contact the financial aid office. Once the award letter arrives, sit down with your family to discuss if the college is affordable. If it is not, look for instructions on appealing the award letter. This process may be as simple as writing a letter and providing additional documentation to make a case for additional merit scholarships or financial aid. If you appeal and the school does not increase your aid, you can decline the offer. You can cite financial difficulty (usually an OK deal breaker if you applied for Early Decision) and choose another more affordable school. I don’t believe any school (no matter which one) is worth taking on tons of debt.

Withdraw other college applications

Next, withdraw your applications from other colleges that admitted you as an Early Decision applicant. Unfortunately, many students forget this step after they are accepted to college. Why is this important? These days, colleges are adding large numbers of students to the waitlist. By letting them know you have chosen another school, they can move someone off the waitlist into your slot. The only exception will be a clause in the ED agreement that allows you to deny acceptance for financial reasons. Otherwise, here’s a sample withdrawal letter you can use to send to colleges.

Plan a visit & mingle with classmates

Typically, colleges host a special event on campus for admitted students. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, this is more likely going to be virtual. Whether online or in-person, attend this event to meet other accepted students, tour the campus, explore student services, meet advisors, and ask questions about the enrollment process. At this visit, you can view the college from the perspective of being a student. While there, especially if you are on the fence, ask yourself: does this feel right? Do I see myself living here? Will I be happy? I know this is hard to do virtually. If you can swing it, I suggest you visit the school informally, in-person, while no one is on campus, and keep safety precautions in mind. At least this way, you’d get a feel of the campus.

Follow any next step instructions

Once you decide on a college, the timeline towards matriculation will move quickly. Check out this post on College Transition from A to Z. It’s surreal that in a few months, you’ll be a college student. The college will inform you via your online portal or by mail, the specific action steps you need to enroll. For example, the school may be hosting an open house for admitted students for which you need to register. Other common tasks include:

  • Accepting your offer of admission and financial aid award
  • Submitting a deposit
  • Getting a physical and immunized
  • Registering for entrance exams
  • Completing housing forms
  • Student loan entrance exams

There will be a lot to do. Read the directions carefully. If you have questions, please contact your admissions officer. Keep track of what you have to do, and make sure you complete these items by their deadlines to prevent any roadblocks to registering for classes.

Now that you’re accepted to college, the journey begins. Ride the high of being accepted, but make sure you complete these steps to successfully transition from high school to the college you dreamed of attending

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Bethany Goldszer is top college admissions and financial aid expert. She's been featured in HuffPost, USA Today, Newsday, Queens Gazette, and Official Black Wall Street & voted Best of Long Island. Faced with the overwhelming stress of applying, getting admitted to and financing her University of Chicago education, she started Stand Out College Prep LLC in 2012 so that no student or parent would have to go through this process alone. Over the last 15 years, Bethany has worked with over 1,500 students, helping them and their parents get into their top choice colleges and secure more than $20M in financial aid and scholarships. And each year, she continues to help more students stand out in the college admissions process and their parents navigate financial aid and scholarships.