3 THINGS TO DO THE DAY YOU CHOOSE YOUR COLLEGE
The following is an excerpt from Hélène Tragos Stelian’s new book, Moving to College: What to Do, What to Learn, What to Pack.
With May 1—College Decision Day—upon us, here’s some advice that’s not to be missed.
1. Commit to your college of choice
Follow instructions on how to accept the offer from your college, which may involve one or more deposits. Find out if your school gives housing preference to students based on when they commit, in which case don’t delay. Follow all other instructions provided in your acceptance materials so you meet housing and other registration deadlines.
Turn down other college acceptance offers (usually online) and email any representatives you’ve been communicating with personally to let them know as well (it’s the right thing to do).
2. Address financial aid and payment matters
Before accepting your college’s offer, you hopefully spent time understanding the financial aid package you may have received from your college. You should know what the gap is between your award from the school and your own expected contribution. Follow the directions provided to accept all or part of your financial aid award by the school’s stated deadline. And know what you’ll need to do to maintain your financial aid in good standing and to renew your award yearly. Any questions? Reach out to your college’s office of financial aid.
If financial aid will not cover all your needs, you may wish to appeal the school’s award before accepting their admission offer. If your financial situation has changed (e.g. your parent’s loss of employment) be sure to let the office of financial aid know as well as this may lead to an increased aid offer.
Now you need to figure out how will you pay for your part of college costs. Make sure you’ve factored in costs that may not be included in the award letter, such as transportation, books and supplies, and personal expenses. This is the time to start saving money and looking for a summer job. Don’t forget that scholarship money may still be available so do further research and apply promptly.
If work-study is part of your financial aid package, understand your options and sign up early for the best assignments.
If you will be taking out a federal student loan for the first time, be sure to complete Entrance Counseling (which may be required by the Federal Government and also by your college) and to sign a Master Promissory Note.
If you will be paying for any part of your tuition bill with 529 funds, make sure you (and your parent) are clear on how to do this, as it can be a complex process.
If you will be making some of your tuition payments out of your own pocket, consider spreading the payments through an installment plan — contact your school to find out what plans they offer.
3. Book hotel rooms for orientation, move-in days, and parents’ weekend
If you’ll need to travel a distance to campus, book hotel rooms (or secure stays with local family or friends) for orientation and move-in days.
If your parent will be able to visit for parents/family weekend (most often scheduled in the fall — check the school’s online calendar), and will need to stay in a hotel, now is the time to book those nights. This is particularly true if the college is outside a major metropolis, where there may not be as many options for accommodations. If feasible, book an extra room (or ask two queens or a rollaway bed) so that your college student has the option to sleep at the hotel — they may appreciate the break from their noisy and cramped dorm room; you can always cancel an extra room ahead of time if they choose not to join you.
Check the college website for discounted hotel rates as some schools partner with nearby hotels to provide visitor deals.
It may be wise to book dinner reservations as well, for the same reasons stated above. On parents/family weekend, you may wish to add a few extra people to the number in case your teen would like to bring a new friend or two whose family may not be able to be there.
And if you’ll need a rental car, now is the time to book that too.
For more, check out Moving to College: What to Do, What to Learn, What to Pack.
Practical Resources include:
A step-by-step list of things to do, from decision to move-in day, such as:
• Booking hotel rooms ASAP for parents’ weekend
• Securing scholarship money to close financial aid gaps
• Understanding your health plan options and HIPAA waivers
The life skills every student should learn before leaving home, including:
• Staying safe and handling a medical emergency
• Managing expenses and staying on a budget
• Handling common roommate problems
The most comprehensive college packing list, for every category, featuring:
• Dorm life essentials and what’s a waste of money
• Extensive product information and reviews
• Packing and move-in day tips to ensure a stress-free move
Hundreds of resources, with links at your fingertips, including:
• The best stores for college dorm shopping, with tips on student discounts
• Where to buy, rent, and sell textbooks so you never pay full price
• Great books, websites, and blogs for both students and parents