Many high school seniors have already decided on their college choice, and are sitting back, safe in the knowledge that the question of where and how they will spend the next four years has already been settled. They still have to keep away from the dreaded senior slump, so their acceptance is not rescinded, and start/continue saving money. But there is much less stress in their life right now.
Other seniors, however, are not so stress-free. They just can’t seem to make up their mind over which college to attend, and have been wavering back and forth between their options. Unfortunately, the big National College Decision Day is looming on May 1. Although there are some exceptions, this is the generally accepted final deadline for seniors to pick a college, submit their acceptance, and make an initial deposit. While it might seem like there is still some time left, three months can go by very quickly when you have so much to do. Here are some tips that might make it easier to plan ahead for College Decision Day:
- Talk to someone: You don’t have to make this decision alone. Talk to your parents, siblings, friends, relatives, teachers and counselors to get their advice on what path to take.
- Compare in two ways: Look at emotional reasons to pick one college over another, and then think about financial reasons. Take all possible costs into consideration, including travel and out-of-pocket living expenses. If your emotional favorite’s financial aid package won’t cover the bill, you might have a really tough decision to make. Be sure you know how much of each financial aid offer comes in the form of scholarships and grants you will not have to repay, and student loans that you will have to repay. A big emphasis on loans might tilt the scales in favor of one school over another.
- Make one last effort at increasing financial aid: We all know that 2020 was a really tough year on a lot of families, but many financial aid decisions were based on information from 2019. If your family faced financial problems last year, put together a compelling case for more help.
- Check your bank balance: If you do have an idea of the college you want to attend, find out how much money you will be expected to pay. If you don’t have enough, you’ll need to earn more by then or learn a lot about student loans in a hurry.
- There is still time to look for scholarships: Does the final decision rest on a specific amount of money? If so, a scholarship might just do the trick. Look for help on your own, or check out the CFAA Scholarship Program. Over the next three months we can help you locate, organize and apply to 60 personalized scholarship opportunities that could help fill any potential financial aid gap.
Take a minute, and make your choice. Carefully read all the information provided to be sure you complete all the documents needed to secure your place in the Class of 2025. Be sure to let other colleges know that you will not be attending, so they can offer your spot to other students on their wait list. Once you finally make the choice about which college to attend, you will breathe a huge sigh of relief. All those years of school and hard work have culminated in this achievement. Congratulations on making it this far and good luck in the years ahead!
At the other end of the college choice spectrum are high juniors who are just now beginning to think about filing the FAFSA in October. To start getting ready for that big date now, be sure to set a CFAA new client free strategy session. This gives us a chance to look at your individual situation, and coordinate your college search and financial aid timelines.
Time is getting short, but take the time needed to make a decision that’s best for you. For the latest financial aid information and college application to-do lists, look for my weekly JustAskJodi emails and check out my monthly CFAA e-newsletter.