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Dazzled by digital confetti: now what?!

“hello, when do I need to pick a college by”

No capitalization. No punctuation. Perfect.

Out of the blue, this text arrived, and I smiled. A mid-January text, reminding me that—at last—the students are now the ones who hold the cards. They get to pick their college. Sure, some are still waiting for admissions decisions—ahem, UF and FSU, and all those late-March notifications—but most students have heard from at least one college, if not more. All the fanciful talk about the future and college is now happening.

Once the decision notifications come in, so, too, come the deluge of emails offering up-to-the minute details on campus activities and additional opportunities for visits. The colleges are eager for answers, but the students are not ready. The high school seniors don’t have all of information they need yet: admissions decisions from remaining colleges, financial aid packages, another look-see at academic and social opportunities. It’s information overload, complete with digital confetti and fat envelopes filled with glossy photographs of funny-looking mascots. Hence, the reason some students feel the pressure to choose a college sooner rather than later.

What’s a busy, overwhelmed high school senior to do?

First, May 1st is National College Decision Day. May 1st is the deadline for choosing one college and submitting the enrollment deposit. That’s it. That’s the day. So take the time between now and then to carefully review the options.

Second, review the correspondence from colleges for information on housing contracts and deposits. The deadlines and rules vary from school to school and for campuses with limited freshman housing availability, this part of the process can be crucial for qualifying for on-campus housing. Look for these options:

  • The housing contract and deposit may be submitted before the tuition deposit and may be (partially) refundable prior to May 1.

  • The tuition deposit is required prior to submitting the housing contract and deposit. This policy is frustrating but be patient. Submit the tuition deposit only when the time is right and don’t feel pressure to submit it earlier. Know that there are many other students who must wait as well.

  • The housing contract is only available after May 1.

Third, soak it all in. Leave no email unopened and continue to view all the choices through a wide lens. What seemed like a perfect college five months ago may no longer be one. Another college may now be offering just the right amount of money and some previously unknown programs. Enjoy the discovery!

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