January, February and some of March aren’t just dull months in terms of weather but also in the college admissions process. After months of standardized testing, campus visits and arduous applications it feels a bit odd to sit and do nothing. But your applications are in – what can you do?!
There is actually quite a bit you can be doing at this point. Between financial aid applications and college campus tours, there is plenty to keep you busy in your "official college search" while you wait to hear an admission decision from colleges. All of this will better set you up to have a decision made by National Decision Day
File the FAFSA.
This first “to-do” can’t be stressed enough – especially if you have yet to file the FAFSA
. In order to qualify for financial aid at all, this document must be submitted. While you may have had an older brother or sister who went to college and didn’t qualify for aid, this shouldn’t stop you from filling one out. Along with changes to your family’s financial circumstances, eligibility for certain types of aid changes too.
Though the national deadline is June 30th, many states and schools have earlier deadlines. This helps financial aid administrators better determine your award package so make sure your FAFSA is in before all of your state and potential college choices’ deadlines. Check their websites or call each office to verify these dates, which typically occur in February, March or April.
Keep your grades up.
Schools have every right to ask for your final semester grades, and you don't want your high school senior GPA to reflect signs of senioritis. There is a possibility that the admissions office would revoke their offer of admission to you. After all, they only want students who will work hard and take academics seriously; not students who simply coast.
If you find yourself falling behind, consider creating a study group with friends or peers from your class. Talk to your teacher about your struggles; he or she can guide you through the curriculum one-on-one in order to get a better understanding. Essentially, don’t be too afraid or lazy to get help now. Your grades are just as important now as they were in the fall.
Follow up with the admissions office on your application.
Now, be very careful with this piece of advice. It is NOT a good idea to call your admission officer and ask, “Have you made your decision yet?” Rather, you want to make the call to ensure they have all the pieces they need to make the best assessment of your qualification for admission.
There are many components to the college application process, and it is common for students to overlook a piece. Additionally, colleges ask for different pieces. Some require an essay, while others don’t. One college may need you to answer short essay questions. It can be a lot to keep track of, and it can look good on your part to make sure they have everything they need from you.
Schedule a visit to the college sometime in late March or April.
Your final college choice decision is due May 1st, and before that date, you may be agonizing over which school you’re going to choose. A college visit is the perfect way to solidify your choice.
Coronavirus edition: Nearly all college campuses are closed now due to the Coronavirus outbreak in the US. As a result, prospective students cannot visit colleges they hope to attend. However, colleges have been creative, providing virtual tours and open houses for prospective or admitted students to attend. Just because a majority of the country is under orders to stay home doesn’t mean you can’t visit colleges you’re considering. So grab your laptop or tablet, and escape to a college campus for a bit.
It’s also a great time to visit financial aid offices.
If your family is experiencing unusual financial circumstances that aren’t reflected on the FAFSA, this is the time and place to discuss this with a financial aid administrator. They can oftentimes make professional judgments that permit you to receive more financial aid to compensate for your family’s circumstances.
Coronavirus edition: Like admissions offices, financial aid offices at colleges are likely closed. Financial aid officers, however, are working from home – just as many Americans are across the country. With that, feel free to get in touch with a financial aid officer at your college of choice to go over any questions you may have. They’re here to support you through the Coronavirus outbreak and the financial aid application process.
Finally, breathe easy.
While the most time consuming part of applying to college is over, it only gets more stressful. Once the admission decisions come in, you’ll have some difficult decisions of your own to make.
What if you didn't get into your top choice – what is your plan now? Or what if you were wait-listed – should you stay on the list or consider your second or third college choice?
This is the lull in the crazy admissions process. So enjoy it.