It’s an annual rite of spring. National College Decision Day, on May 1st, is a wonderful occasion for college-bound students and their families.
If you have taken the leap this year, congratulations! You should celebrate all the hard work that got you to this point.
Choosing a college is a big deal! Now for the next steps. There are things to do before your first day as a freshman. 🙂
Some Simple Steps to Get Organized
1. Check your inbox daily and mark college mail as a high priority. Over the next few months, you’ll be getting a lot of important emails from your college – and they’ll probably be coming from different offices. Check your email every day.
Gmail and other services can’t judge what is important and what is spam, so it will be up to you to watch carefully and mark college email addresses as safe and a high priority. Official email addresses from the college’s financial aid, bursar, admissions, and dean’s offices should be marked as important so they don’t end up in your spam, promotions, or social folders. (In Gmail, official college mail should be routed to your “Important” or “Primary” email box, depending on what version you are using. Or mark all important emails with a star. Other providers offer a similar set-up.)
2. Watch your old-fashioned mailbox too. Colleges still send important letters and packets using the postal service. It’s fun to get real mail. Read everything and create a filing system for the important stuff.
3. Set up your account on your new college portal. Soon after you accept your offer, you’ll likely get instructions on how to set up your official online student account. It’s important that you set it up immediately as this will be the portal through which you choose your classes, communicate with your college, and track your tuition bills and payments.
4. Complete all college forms as they come in. You’ll be asked to complete a lot of forms in the months leading up to the start of school. You’ll need to pick your first semester classes, sign up for freshman orientation, and choose a dorm and meal plan if you’ll be living at school. There will also be paperwork to set up your tuition payments and accept your financial aid. Complete and submit the forms as soon as you receive them. You don’t want to miss any deadlines.
Need Help with Your Tuition Bill?
Have your personal or financial circumstances changed since you applied to college? Are you feeling overwhelmed now that your first tuition bill is due? It’s important to let the college know and seek help as soon as possible.
Read our advice on how to pay for and communicate with your college:
I’ve Chosen My College, Now How Do I Pay for It? Five Steps to Get Started
Haven’t Made Your Decision Yet?
If you’re still deciding among your college offers, don’t stress! Make sure to decide by the colleges’ deadlines – whether it’s May 1 or another date. Plenty of colleges have rolling deadlines for admission. Sign up for school when you are ready.
And if you are having a tough time choosing your path, discuss your options with your family and school counselor. It’s always helpful to get other perspectives. Your goal is to choose a college that is both a good fit for you and affordable.
Most importantly, this decision is just one moment in your life. Chances are good that the college you decide on will serve you well. And money is an important factor too. Give thought to which college you can pay for without taking on too much debt. That will be the school that serves you best.
Laura Zingmond is the editor of InsideSchools.org and a seasoned veteran of the college financial aid system. Ask her anything about the FAFSA or CSS Profile.