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One of the best times of the year is now, when students send me their acceptance letters from their rolling, early action, and early decision schools. Although the format of each letter is similar, the overall tone and details vary, often reflecting the culture of the college. Of course—as one of my students admitted last week—students often do not get past the line that exclaims “Congratulations!”

So, I had to smile when I skimmed through the letter from the University of Tennessee and its bolded titles atop each paragraph—particularly the one near the end: THE FINE PRINT. The paragraph that followed specified the deadline for submitting official test scores and final high school transcripts; missing the deadline could mean forfeiting scholarships or the offer of admission. Truthfully, it was a reminder of the importance of reading every bit of correspondence, to the very end, and especially the fine print.

What other key details might be found in that acceptance letter, the follow-up congratulatory email, or the student portal? While waiting to hear more decisions, now is a good time for students to carefully read what they’ve received so far:

  • Do scholarship offers need to be accepted within a certain time frame? Can the deadline be extended?

  • Is there a housing application form to complete in order to hold a place in university housing?

  • How much is the enrollment deposit and when is it due? (May 1 is the typical deadline but be sure to check.)

  • Is there a separate application for the honors college or additional scholarships?

  • Are all appropriate financial aid forms completed?

  • Is there an Accepted Student Day and when is it?

After reading the fine print, be sure to go back and revel in that first paragraph—the one that starts with “Congratulations, you’re IN!” It is the thrill in reading those words that makes the time spent attending to the details all worth it.


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