January, February and some of March aren’t just dull months in terms of weather but also in the 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?!
You can start by filling out the FAFSA.
This first “to-do” can’t be stressed enough. 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.
While 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 potential college choices’ deadlines. Check their websites or call each office to verify these dates, which typically occur in February or March.
Keep your grades up.
Schools have every right to ask for your final semester grades, and you don't want your 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.
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. Again, don’t ask about the decision – it could actually hurt your chances of getting in.
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.
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.
Finally, breathe easy.
While the most time consuming part of the process 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.
1. Fill out the FAFSA.
2. Keep grades up.
3. Make sure the admissions office has all of your application pieces.
4. Schedule a school visit and talk to financial aid administrators.
5. Take some time to relax.