It’s an annual rite of spring. National College Decision Day on May 1 is a wonderful occasion for college-bound students and their families.
If you’ve 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’re using. Or mark all important emails with a star. Other providers offer a similar setup.)
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.
How to pay for and communicate with your college
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’re ready.
And if you’re 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’s 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.