The College Search Process – Closure Phase
The last phase of the college search process is the Closure Phase. As I write this, it is the time of year for the Execution Phase, which was the topic of last week’s post. However, it is helpful to look ahead to learn about the steps that should happen after the Execution Phase is completed.
The Closure Phase of the college search process comes after all applications have been submitted. I’m going to say it starts during the waiting period for college acceptances. The majority of the hard work is done, and now there are a few loose ends to tie up while awaiting college acceptances and then it will be time for the final selection.
Activities While Your Student Is Waiting For College Acceptances
- File the FAFSA if you haven’t already. Starting with the 2016-2017 high school senior class, the FAFSA will be available earlier (October 1, 2016 instead of January 1, 2017). Even if you don’t think your student will qualify for need-based aid, it may be a good idea to file the FAFSA to know for sure. Also, the FAFSA must be filed if there is a chance your student will want to take advantage of federal student loans.
- Start searching for private scholarships. These are usually offered through businesses, clubs, and other organizations. You can search the large scholarship websites, but there are thousands of students competing for the private scholarships listed there. Your student’s best bet is to check with the high school counseling office to see if they have a listing of local scholarships. Local scholarships will be much easier to win because there will be minimal competition. Some students head to college with thousands of dollars in local scholarships. Also, keep an eye on your local newspaper for press releases on local scholarships.
After Acceptances Are Received
Financial aid award letters usually go out in early March. Once you have these in hand, start listing them out on an offer comparison spreadsheet. My college search spreadsheet has a separate tab for this.
If your student has been accepted to multiple colleges, he or she may want to do final visits. Many schools offer Admitted Student Visit Days for this purpose, but you can also arrange a visit on your own.
You will probably need to stay close to the final decision process to weigh in on the cost and what it would mean for your student’s financial picture to choose any of the schools that admitted him or her.
Sometimes a student is faced with a decision between two fairly comparable school options. I wrote a popular post on this subject a while back, The Final College Choice – Choosing Between Two Colleges.
If you are faced with a larger than manageable gap between what you know you can afford and what the colleges want you to pay, there may be some opportunity for negotiation. Just go into the process humbly, never acting entitled, and explain why you need a little more help to be able to send your student to this school that he or she is very interested in. It is always worth a try. The worst they can say is “no”.
The Closure Phase of the college search process really ends when a final decision is made and a deposit has been sent in to secure your student’s place in the freshman class. From where you are now, it may seem like a long road to even get to college acceptances, but the hard work, worry and stress will pay off and hopefully your student will be excited to begin this next chapter in his or her life.