What’s In A Name: Helping Students Accept The Best College (For Them)


April is college decision month for high school seniors who have until May 1 to decide which college to accept. The brutal process of applying to college and waiting for acceptances is now over. Now, the seniors get to decide which college’s offer of admissions to accept. While many adults and students often get attached to college names, colleges are so much more than their names.

whats in a nameHere are some tips to guide undecided high school seniors and their families through these challenging, yet empowering weeks of decision-making.

  1. Accept and allow. We need to help seniors understand that they have some wonderful choices. They may feel disappointed and even devastated by rejections. We may feel the same pain. With competitive colleges accepting anywhere from 5.9% to 28% of students, huge numbers of students will be disappointed. We need to help them see how talented they are and understand that rejections are awful, but acceptances are even more powerful. So we need to help them focus on the colleges that accepted them—the amazing schools with programs and opportunities that truly match their talents and capabilities.
  2. Appeal and move through waitlists. If students are determined to still want to attend a college that rejected or waitlisted them (the often longer road to rejection), help them. Gather stats—how many kids are on the waitlist and what percentages typically get admitted? Does the college accept appeals? Students need to feel they have tried, but then they must move on, as they have to find happiness with a college that accepted them. Adults have to guide seniors through this process and help students focus on the future.
  3. Make sense of financial aid packages. High school seniors will get many complex financial aid packages. We need to help them understand their offers by creating comparative charts with columns for grant and scholarships, loans, and outright payments. Last week, I spoke to two students who didn’t understand that several of the colleges that admitted them had left them with large portions of uncovered college costs. Using their charts, students can call colleges and ask them to match other offers. They need to make hard decisions that don’t leave them irrevocably in debt or at a school that doesn’t offer all that they want. Don’t forget to have kids budget in costs for computers, clothing, and other intangibles.
  4. Apply for additional scholarships. There are many scholarships out there for under-represented and other students. Many deadlines are in April and May. Students need to continue applying for them. They can call colleges they are considering attending or accepted, and see if there are scholarships for incoming freshmen.
  5. Visit, visit, visit. In April, every college has programs for accepted students. Students can sit-in on classes, stay overnight in the dorms, and talk with current students. Parents can also attend special sessions. Amtrak just introduced a companion fare. It is so important to show students what the colleges look like. Often colleges will cover travel expenses of under-represented students. It can’t hurt to ask for travel assistance.
  6. Talk with current and former students of accepted colleges. If you can’t visit in person, there are other options. Alumni organizations in students’ hometowns often have accepted student functions. There are also current students in your area that will meet or speak with your students.
  7. Compare and compare and compare.  Students often have so many choices—that they need to narrow down their lists. Some colleges, despite their names, are not right for many seniors. Seniors need to look at access to classes and majors, special resources, alumni networks, and more. Students need to prioritize their key needs and make difficult decisions. Help them decide what is really best for them.
  8. Flip a coin. Ultimately, students may narrow down their choices to two colleges and get stuck. So I often recommend they flip a coin and decide to accept whichever college they assigned to that side. Their gut response to that decision may help guide them.
  9. Be supportive at all costs. High school seniors do not have fully developed frontal cortexes. They are making huge decisions about their futures, and they are going through this process for the first and hopefully only time. Please understand their confusion, and do whatever you can to help them make the right decisions for them.
  10. Speak with families and advocate for match colleges. Many families may not want their students to leave home, live in dorms, or go to match colleges. Please do what you can to help these students and their families make decisions that benefit their students–it is the child’s time to grown and achieve what’s truly possible.
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About rjoseph

I am the creator and visionary behind this site. I want to do everything I can to help students consider college as an option, even when they may be the first in their family to go or may not have the funds at hand. Don't let anyone tell you that you don't have the right or the ability to go to college.

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