Congratulations, high school seniors: Many of you are reading this blog entry having recently completed your college applications or are on the verge of doing so – what a significant milestone in your educational careers! I want you to stop what you’re doing right now, sit back, take a deep breath, and enjoy the moment of triumph.
All set? Have you enjoyed the moment to its fullest?
Good – because now it’s time to get some real work done!
Yes, students, believe it or not, the hardest part of the college application process actually arrives after you’ve clicked “submit” on your finale online application. There are still a lot of other things you need to do between now and high school graduation if you want to pack your bags and move to the right college campus for you next fall. The list goes something like this:
- Visit your prospective campuses for the first, second, or even third time. While it’s wonderful to have the time and ability to visit all of your campuses before you put your applications in, it’s not always feasible that you’re able to make the trip – particularly if the school is a long distance from your home. Many students wish to wait for confirmation that they’re admitted to the school before making travel arrangements and that’s a good strategy if you’ve applied to a school early action or early decision because you’ll be notified of your admission status sooner rather than later. If you’ve applied in early fall for a regular decision revelation, however, a better choice is to book a visit when you have the time to go as a way to not only familiarize yourself with the campus and its offerings, but also to demonstrate your serious interest to the admissions committee before they render their decision.Already been to visit the campus one time? Figure out what specific programs or places you’d like to see again and find out if it’s possible to meet one on one with a faculty member and/or the coach of the equestrian team.
- Get your financial house in order. Many schools require that preliminary financial information be filed as part of the College Board’s CSS Profile by early to mid-October or November, which means you and your parents will need to sit down with copies of last year’s tax returns, savings and retirement account information, and some other pieces of financial data and send it to the schools on your application list who require submission of the form as part of their financial aid awarding process. (Some schools will require this form even if you don’t plan to file the FAFSA for federal financial aid.) And even if your schools don’t require the CSS Profile to be submitted, it’s worth the time to organize your family’s assets so that you can either file the FAFSA on January 1 (the date it will be come available for next year’s freshman) or to assess how your education will be funded next year. (Better to have the money conversation earlier rather than later so there are no surprises when it comes time to make a final enrollment decision.)
- Research scholarships and apply for them. Speaking of how you will pay for college, the prime hunting season for potential scholarship dollars happens in mid to late fall and continues through spring of your senior year. Once your applications have been submitted, visit your school counseling office for information about local or school-specific scholarships you might be eligible for. You can also check with your church or other community groups you might be involved in, with equestrian organizations of which you might be a member (local, regional, and even national groups often have scholarships – including USEF and its affiliates), and even your parents’ employers.Your very best source of scholarship funding, however, will be from the college or university in which you will ultimately enroll, so once your applications have been submitted, contact your admissions representative to find out what scholarships you might be eligible for from the school and what you’ll need to do to be considered for them.
- Reach out to the equestrian team and/or coach for the first (or second!) time. If you haven’t already expressed your interest in riding to the team coach, take the time to fill out his or her athletic recruiting questionnaire (usually located on the team’s web site) and send a follow up email directly to the coach to let him or her know that you have applied, that you’ve submitted the recruitment form, and that you’re very interested in riding for the school as a freshman. If you haven’t met the coach in person or toured the team facilities, find out when the best time to visit will be and get that on your calendar. Perhaps he or she will want you to observe a practice, come to a team tryout, or attend one of their competitions to see the team in action. The coach might also want to see video footage of you in the saddle so be sure that you have a brief (brief!) video uploaded to YouTube or another sharing site so that you can send it easily upon request.
- Read your mail! It sounds like such a simple thing and yet I can’t tell you how many students I encountered during my tenure as an admissions counselor who didn’t read the mail (email or the snail variety) that was sent to them by the colleges and universities to which they had applied. (One young man in particular missed out on the opportunity to compete for a full tuition scholarship because he didn’t read the invitation until the day before the competition was to be held!) So make sure that part of your daily routine is to read the mail sent to you by the schools to which you have applied and to check your email as well for information that is pertinent to you. Visit programs, scholarship opportunities, and other special activities are scheduled on college campuses year-round and you don’t want to miss out on valuable experiences just because you ignored an important message!
Choosing your college is a big decision and one that isn’t to be taken lightly, but the decision process isn’t one that is over and done with in an instant. Instead, it’s one that evolves over the course of your senior year. Some doors will open to you while others will close and it’s in your best interests to stay on top of all of the information that’s sent your way so that you can manage your decision-making without panicking at the last minute.