When seniors make a decision about college, let everybody know

Today I would like to share a few thoughts with high school seniors about tying up any college admission loose ends.
First, though, a loose end so large it could be an entire garment: Submitting the FAFSA online to be sure you are considered for need-based financial aid. As was covered in last month’s column, 1) the FAFSA is essential to colleges in figuring out your relative financial need and 2) the earlier you apply the better your chances of receiving aid. So if you hope to be considered for need-based aid but haven’t filed your FAFSA, do so immediately. While it’s no longer early, it may not be too late.
Here are a few things I discussed last week with the students I am working with about how you should respond to any admission or scholarship/financial aid offers you receive from colleges.
Colleges should allow applicants to have until as late as May 1 to choose freely from all offers of admission and financial aid. A college may ask a student to decide earlier, but if you are a “regular decision” applicant you should have until as late as May 1 to finally decide. A college definitely should not put an offer of admission or scholarship on the table and threaten to retract it if the student doesn’t accept by any date prior to May 1.
The student’s side of the deal is that when May 1 comes, it is time to decide. Colleges and students both need time to plan. If you are admitted to a place that has more students ready to enroll than they have places to put them, someone is waiting on your spot. If you do not notify the school by May 1, they will assume you aren’t coming and give your place to someone else.
But please don’t make anyone assume anything. You should write all schools you were admitted to (e-mail is OK) and let them know if you are coming. They likely have told you many times how much they want you there – it’s just common courtesy to let them know.
Your message doesn’t need to explain your reasons, although colleges would appreciate the feedback. But you can simply say, “Thank you for admitting me to University X. Although it was a difficult decision, I have made plans to attend college elsewhere.”
By the way, if you have made a housing deposit at a school you will not attend, letting them know your plans by May 1 should entitle you to a full refund of that deposit. Application fees are not refundable.
If you are having a hard time choosing, learn how well a college may fit you by taking advantage of the admitted student open houses many colleges host on campus in April. These programs are information-rich and provide the chance for you to see and visit with potential future classmates.
I hope you find a college that fits you just right! And, please, let them know by May 1.
For more information on the May 1 reply date, visit the National Association for College Admission Counseling Web site, click on “About NACAC” and choose “Policies and Statements.” From there just click on “Statement of Principles of Good Practice.”
Beckett Howorth, M.Ed., guides students and families as an independent college counselor. He is a former director of admissions and a past president of the Southern Association for College Admission Counseling with 33 years of college admissions experience. To contact him or to read about his services, visit www.howortheducationalplanning.com

Ginny Miller