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College Talk Blog

Admission Decisions

Day After Tomorrow is Decision Day

Don't let your high school senior wait to the last minute to officially inform a college he or she has decided to attend. There are things beyond your control that could cause a disaster such as a power outage, college website malfunction or other unexpected event. There is no do-over after May 1st. There is a waiting list of students ready to take your son or daughter's spot in the fall freshman class.

When do they actually decide where to go?

This month many parents are as nervous as their teens about where the teen will be accepted and where they might choose to go to college. The most frequent question I am asked is about when the student should decide. The answer is simple but frustrating. Students decide where to go after all of their colleges have given them a decision on their admission application.

Parents are often happy with some early admission decisions that have arrived and want the student to decide early. However students want to know all their options even when they are pretty sure that they will actually attend one of the first acceptances they received.

Parent No-No's in the College Process

One of my concerns as a bystander and supporter in the college process is keeping the parent and student relationship whole. In the last year or two that the student lives at home, it is important to evolve the relationship toward an adult-adult relationship that is more mentor-mentee than parent-child in nature.

The families I worry most about are those intent on keeping the relationship a parent-child relationship because that sets the stage for 2 undesirable consequences:
1) passive student not taking an active role in decisions or

Don't look up, watch your wallet!

When a parent directs a teen to only consider top tier colleges, that parent needs to plan to play big bucks. Although it does happen that some students I work with are at top tier colleges with significant tuition discounts, it is also possible that they will be offered admission but not enough scholarship money to make that college affordable.

A variety of college targets is the best strategy. It allows parents and students to "shop" for colleges. Less well known colleges sometimes have the best program in an area and are sometimes able to be more generous with scholarship money than public universities.

What if I don't get in?

When a student applies to a college that put him on a wait list and he is never admitted to that college, it is not the end of the world. It may seem like it, but so long as that student applied to other similar colleges and was admitted to them, he can't lose. 

Over decades of working with students and families on college admission, it has seemed to me that sometimes not getting in to a particular college can be a good thing. The reason that can be true is that sometimes students choose a college for the prestige factor rather than practical reasons.