The joy of May 1st and college decision day was celebrated by many high school seniors and their families through proud parent posts to Facebook and student photos on Instagram with the inclusion of #Classof2023. Schools held college colors days and education-focused organizations hosted in-person and virtual celebrations for seniors.
For some, however, there was no decision to be made, no social media post and no celebration.
It may sound like a nightmare: your student didn’t get into the dream school and didn’t apply to a safety school. Or maybe your student didn’t get in anywhere. Perhaps your child’s ambitious list combined with an extremely large, competitive pool of applicants left them without any backup options. Or perhaps there is no way for you to realistically afford that out-of-state tuition and the in-state institution deadline has passed. Now what?
The good news is that your child still has some options, if you act quickly.
First, if your student didn’t file a FAFSA, rectify that immediately. Some states are still accepting the application and considering students for aid, though it’s typically first-come, first-served. But even if deadline may have already passed to receive state aid at this point, federal aid through the FAFSA can be applied for until June 30. Additionally, even though many larger or national scholarship programs, like APIA Scholars, are closed for the year, local scholarships may still be an option and may require a completed FAFSA for consideration. The application is free and any potential money you qualify for will help defray the already considerable cost of a college education.
If your student filed the FAFSA already but doesn’t have any affordable options or didn’t get any admissions offers, there are some schools that have later application deadlines or rolling admissions. Your child should also consider open access institutions or community colleges.
Community colleges offer an incredible deal for those who may be panicking about options at this point. Although it may seem as if your child is undermatched at a two-year school, community colleges can give them a foot in the door for higher education and keep them on track for earning a degree. Federal aid through the FAFSA can go a long way at these institutions, but even without aid they are typically much more affordable and can lead to less debt and financial strain for your family. Semester costs can often be spread out with payment plan options, too, rather than having to front all of the tuition and fees at once, making it more financially manageable. They also offer flexibility: your child could even enroll part time or take night classes or online courses to give them an opportunity to work and save up money for tuition.
Your student should carefully choose classes at the local community college to ensure that they pick a schedule with credits that will transfer to other institutions. It can be helpful to meet with a counselor at the community college and also to chat with someone at the school to which they hope to transfer to get a better sense of what those courses may be. They can knock out pre-requisites or general education requirements. Or, if they need to take remedial courses in math or English, community colleges give them a less expensive way to get those completed.
While it can be disappointing to have to settle for something other than what your child expected (at least for the time being), what’s important is that they don’t have to delay college all together. Help them figure out a plan that works for them, whether it’s applying for admission to a school they didn’t initially know about or attending community college for a few semesters before transferring to a four-year institution or enrolling in an online class or two while they save up money to pay for a deferred acceptance. Your child reaching college is a huge milestone, even if it doesn’t happen quite as you thought it would, and that’s certainly something worth celebrating.
Noel Harmon is president and executive director of Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholars, a nonprofit organization devoted to providing college scholarships for Asian Pacific Islander Americans.