The College Choice Waiting Game

Published by Wendy Nelson on

It’s late January.  My daughter has finished all of her applications.  We are waiting for a scholarship competition, two overnight campus visits, an admissions interview (one very competitive school lets kids visit after the application deadline up until a cut-off date), possible updates to merit scholarships based on December ACT scores and first semester grades, two admission decisions, and the slim possibility of financial aid.

When your child is in the final months of the college choice process, you may find yourself in this waiting game too.  The uncertainty can be agonizing, but it should all come to an end sometime in March or April.

What can your child be doing while you wait?

  1. Update the calendar – Once you start getting acceptance letters, it’s the perfect time to schedule overnight campus visits.  Many schools schedule Admitted Student Days.  Typically these cover a school day and an overnight so that your child can experience classes, staying overnight in a dorm, and hopefully a nighttime campus activity.  You will want to make sure your child has all of his or her school activities and obligations on the calendar so that you can easily schedule a visit.  If a school does not offer an Admitted Student Visit, or your child’s schedule doesn’t work with the scheduled visit day, call the admissions office to schedule an individual overnight visit.  These overnight visits are the best way for your child to know if a school is a good fit.
  2. Look for private scholarships – There are several sites with easy scholarship search functions.  Have your child look through these and save any that he or she may qualify for.  Check out Fastweb, College Prowler, or Cappex.  New scholarships are added all the time and these sites make it easy to differentiate scholarships you are interested in and the associated deadlines.
  3. Prepare for any special interviews, auditions or scholarship competitions.  If your child has something like this scheduled, make sure he or she has his or her “story” practiced and ready to share on why he or she is interested in the school and/or program and what his or her goals are.

As a parent, what can you be doing?

  1. Finalize taxes and financial information if you filed the FAFSA.  If you have filed the FAFSA already, it was probably with estimated data.  Try to complete your tax return as soon as you have received all the necessary forms.  Once your taxes are filed, submit a revision to the FAFSA form.
  2. Clear your calendar for overnight college visits – many schools have parent programs to go along with the student visits.  These visits can be fun and insightful for you too.  If the school is not close to home, you will need to find a hotel while your child stays on campus.
  3. Review your college funding sources – you may want to move at least some money into “safer” investments or minimal interest savings accounts to protect against market risk in the final months before you make the first college payment.
  4. Talk to your child about what the deciding factors should be for the final college choice.  Maybe it will be a combination of what he or she really liked and what school(s) will cost the least out of pocket.  Or maybe you want your child to go wherever he or she felt most comfortable, regardless of cost.  Just make sure your child has the right tools, guidance and information to make the best decision.


Susie Watts · February 2, 2013 at 12:29 pm

As a private college counselor, I think you have offered some good advice for high school seniors and their families as they wait on college admissions decisions. One thing I always remind my seniors about is letting senioritis get in the way of their college acceptances. It is so easy to let down academically once their college applications have been submitted. Colleges have no problem rescinding a student’s acceptance if their final transcript is not what they had expected.

    admin · February 2, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Excellent point, Susie! Thank you for your comment. Going through senior year with my daughter has been rough. It can be so stressful with tough classes, activities and college applications. She has wished several times that she could just slack off, but she knows she can’t because the schools are still watching!

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