Tag decisions

Making a decision without making a visit

Although many schools have postponed their enrollment deadlines, some are sticking to May 1 which is right around the corner.  You may still be weighing your enrollment options.  With college visits off the table, the choice may seem more difficult than ever.    How do you make a final decision without making a visit?     

What’s in a visit
College visits let you “see yourself on the campus.”  But what does this mean?   Usually this is code for “how do you feel about the school?”  or “what does your gut tell you?”.  Walking around campus on a sunny day elicits a feeling.  But feelings are more often about people rather than places.  That’s why counselors tell you not to visit on a holiday or a Sunday when there are often less people around.  The campus doesn’t “feel” right without people.   

So – can you still evoke that same feeling without walking around?  Absolutely!  The campus may be closed but you can still connect with the same people.  Contact the admissions office to ask about your options – ask if you can talk with a student ambassador.  If possible, also talk with an advisor or professor in the academic area that interests you.  Check with your college counselor to find out if they know current students or alums from your high school or local community.  Talking with people – hearing their enthusiasm for the campus (or lack of) – will develop your intuition about a school.      

Other things to consider 
Going to college is a family affair.  Involve your parents and take their opinions to heart.  Together as a family, think back to what was most important when making your original list of colleges (things like – academics, location, size, activities).    

Four aspects of “best fit”

  1. Academic: Does the college offer your major or field of study?  Are there a variety of options if you are undecided?  What will your class sizes be?  What academic support systems are in place if you need help?   
  2. Financial: Is it affordable, both for you and your family?  Have you been offered scholarships or grants, or will you need loans to cover the cost?  Do a cost comparison to see which colleges offer you the best financial aid.   
  3. Social: Harlan Cohen, author of “The Naked Roommate” talks about the importance of identifying PEOPLE and PLACES you will feel comfortable with on campus (see Harlan’s webinar, 7 Big Mistakes HS Seniors Make When Picking a College).  Who will your people and places be?   
  4. Physical: Take an online tour.  Review the campus website for other virtual options – 3D or VR experiences can give you a great perspective of the physical campus.  And don’t forget to ask about the weather and the surrounding area.    

Take Action 
Review your pro and con lists but give credence to your gut feeling as well.  As with any big choice, it should be made with your brain and your heart.  And once you make your enrollment decision, look forward with enthusiasm – don’t second guess yourself.  The college experience is what you make it.  Your attitude and ambition will determine your success as much as the college you select.   

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Decision Time – or is it?

May 1 is traditionally National College Decision Day.  Typically, schools require that students choose where they will enroll by submitting an enrollment deposit on or before May 1.  That makes April – decision time.  Of course, this year things are feeling very different.  A large number of colleges have already extended their enrollment deadlines to June 1.  Making a college choice right now may feel difficult (or easy depending on where you were in the process).  Regardless, you might be asking yourself some of the questions below.     

Can I ask for an extension?  

Of course!  It doesn’t hurt to ask.  Although the college may still have a May 1 deadline, many have said they will make extensions on a case by case basis.  You could be waiting on a financial aid appeal, or for more information from one college that would affect your decision at another.  Make your case requesting an enrollment deadline extension in writing to the admissions office.   

What if I’m on the waitlist?  

Unfortunately for many students, it seems like colleges are sending lots of waitlist offers this year.  Forgive the sports metaphor – colleges want a deep bench in case their freshman enrollment numbers don’t play out the way they typically do.  Waitlist updates could continue throughout the summer.  As with every year, it’s best to send an enrollment deposit to a second-choice college that has admitted you even if you are on the waitlist at your first-choice.  There is no way to know if you will get accepted from the waitlist.   

Maybe I should do a gap year?  

It’s possible – if you truly feel that’s in your best interest and you have a plan.  However, this may not be the best choice if you weren’t already considering this before the pandemic.  Most colleges defer enrollment for only a small number of students and they usually consider those requests on a case by case basis.  You should have solid answers for these three questions:  1) why do you want to take a gap year; 2) how will you spend your time; and 3) what will you learn from your experience?   

My school is not open, I haven’t talked to my counselor, what about my final transcript? 

Colleges understand that these are exceptional circumstances.  No one in education has ever experienced a disruption of quite this level.  Although colleges require your final high school transcript as a proof of graduation (and most also review your final high school grades), allowances will surely be made to get those transcripts submitted.   

We are doing online learning – they say our grades will be pass/fail.   

Again, colleges are going to be making way for a lot of exceptions.  Don’t panic about final grades not looking like they normally would.  High schools across the country are doing their best in this unprecedented situation.  Colleges understand that.  Whether it’s sending unofficial documents via email, or extending the deadline, or waiving final grade requirements – submitting final enrollment paperwork may look differently this year.  The same will likely be true for orientation, housing contracts, and registration.    

Take Action 

The best advice for now is to stay informed.  Visit the admitted student websites (often) for the colleges you are considering, attend any online enrollment events, and read all of the email communication you receive from colleges!  Be in touch with your advisor (and your high school counselor) as they may have updates about changes to deadlines or policies.  And finally, NACAC is providing this online resource to students and families as a centralized place where you can check for updates on all your schools.   

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