College Planning Blog

Welcome to Best College Fit (BCF) College Planning Blog, an ongoing discussion of the factors that impact the college planning process. This space will keep you abreast of critical planning strategies, introduce you to key resources and comment on timely issues that relate to your college planning effort. I look forward to staying in touch and seeing your comments as we progress through the college planning process together.

“Closing the Deal” 5.1.14

For most high school seniors, the May 1 Candidates’ Reply Date marks the conclusion of a long search and selection journey. After years of preparation and months of speculation, admission outcomes are finally known and college destinations have been determined. The enrollment “check is in the mail”—literally. Let the celebration begin!

If you are a soon-to-be high school graduate, though, you need to be careful as you celebrate. The following are points to consider as you move through this exciting transition in your life.

1.  Stay focused academically. While an overwhelming sense of relief is washing over you—and all you want to do is kick back, relax, and enjoy the moment—don’t lose sight of what got you to this point. A quick re-read of the not-so-fine print on your acceptance letter tells the story. In offering you a place in its entering class, the admission committee expects you to complete your senior year at no less than the same level of performance than was evident when it decided to accept you.

Many colleges, particularly those that are highly selective, will monitor your academic performance right up to the end. In order to complete your enrollment, you will need to submit a final transcript confirming your graduation from high school. If your transcript reveals measurable declines in your program or performance, you may suddenly find your enrollment status in jeopardy as colleges are known to revoke their offers of admission—and cancel the actual enrollments—for students whose final transcripts fail to measure up to expectations. When I was Dean of Admission, I found I had to send 6-8 such letters each summer. It was, for obvious reasons, one of the least pleasant things I would have to do as Dean.

So what does this mean for you? It doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the rest of the year; however, you do need to keep going to class! Moreover, resist the temptation to drop courses that are either challenging or don’t relate to your intended college major. Plan to do as well as you can on final exams. Think of such actions as “insurance.” Don’t fall prey to the intellectual comas that seem to find students at the end of the senior year. The last thing you want to see later this summer is a letter from the Dean of Admission informing you that you no longer have a place in the entering class at the school your have chosen.

2.  Commit to one college! In the face of multiple options, it may be tempting to submit enrollment deposits to more than one college in order to give yourself more time to make the final choice. Don’t do it! Hard as it might have been to make “the call” by the May 1 Candidates’ Reply date, you need to stick to that schedule and the resulting decision.

Just as admission officers review final transcripts, they are also prone to comparing enrollment rosters with colleagues at peer institutions. If your name appears on the roster at more than one school, be prepared for the consequences. It is not uncommon for a dean of admission to arbitrarily withdraw a student’s enrollment at her/his school out of respect for the student’s commitment to another school—not the kind of surprise you want to encounter after you have graduated from high school! Imagine if the Deans at both schools took the same action!

Do the smart and ethical thing. Make one commitment and honor it.

The possible exception to this well-documented rule involves the sequence of events following admission from a college’s Wait List. Should you be committed to one college when another offers you a place from its Wait List, you may accept the latter offer. In doing so, however, it is understood that you must forfeit your initial deposit at the first college.

3.  Complete the financial aid process. If you haven’t done so already, complete the FAFSA application. Even if you are not receiving need-based financial aid, most schools will require you to complete the FAFSA in order to secure merit scholarships, un-subsidized student loans or campus work-study opportunities.

Moreover, the fact that you might have received—and accepted—a need-based financial aid award doesn’t mean the process is over. The award was made on the condition that you and your parents will submit tax returns for 2013 in order to verify the data that was reported on your initial financial aid applications.

Finally, be sure to report any scholarships you receive from community organizations to the college you will attend. These awards will be credited to the cost of attendance.

4.  Be safe! Tragically, the best of times can turn quickly into the worst of times for young people as they revel in their achievements. Have a good time but take care of yourself!

The next six weeks are indeed a time for celebrating both happy endings and new beginnings. Having made your college selection, it would seem all that is left before you’re “outta here” is the pomp and circumstance of graduation. As you pause to reflect and enjoy the moment, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture that continues to unfold before you. In the words of an anonymous author,

Be Careful…

Be careful of your thoughts, because your thoughts will become your words.
Be careful of your words, because your words will become your deeds.
Be careful of your deeds, because your deeds will become your habits.
Be careful of your habits, because your habits will become your character.
Be careful of your character, because your character will be your destiny.

Congratulations and best wishes as you embrace your destiny!

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