I’ve Applied to College. Now What?
Updated: Mar 11
Many early action deadlines are behind us, and many of you may have already applied to college. You’ve taken the first step to attend an institute of higher learning. While many of you may think all you need to do is wait until you receive the thick envelope in the mail, there is often more work to do.
Check your email
More than likely, you received an email from the college shortly after you applied. In this email, you will receive instructions to set up an account to monitor your application status. This is especially common if you apply through an external application, like Common Application or the Coalition.
If your college requires any supporting documents, like an official transcript, test scores, or recommendation letters, you can track the receipt of these in your portal. *Note, it can take some time for these documents to arrive and connect to your account, so don’t panic if they aren’t there immediately.
Complete any additional admissions requirements
Sometimes, colleges will require additional forms, like the Self-Reported Academic Record. To complete this requirement, you will need to log in to the platform and add every class you’ve taken during your high school career. Some colleges use the same platform (ex. FSU, UF, and 5 other Florida colleges use the SSAR), but many will have it as a requirement in your application portal.
Apply for scholarships and special programs
While many colleges award merit aid with the admission decision, some require a separate application to be considered for scholarships. The same can be the case for Honors or Leadership programs. Each institution will have a different process, and deadlines vary from school to school. You also should submit the FAFSA and the CSS Profile (if applicable), by the specified deadlines.
Monitor your status
While colleges do send out paper letters, they will also post the decision in your status. Some colleges release decisions on a rolling basis- I’ve seen students hear back in just a few days- and others release decisions on the same date.
Congratulations! You have until May 1 to commit to a school, so feel free to take your time. However, some schools may need to go ahead and apply for housing since they do not have enough beds for all first-year students. Typically, a housing deposit is required, but you can delay sending the enrollment deposit—Double-check with your school’s policy. If you were offered a merit award or admission into a special program and choose to enroll, you would often need to accept the award. If you do not plan to enroll, decline the award/special program. Once you decide, notify all schools that you are not enrolling in, so they know you will not be attending.
Deferrals typically happen during Early Action/Early Decision. This is the school’s way of saying, “we want to know more.” There may be additional documents to complete, like an essay or an updated transcript with fall grades. Sometimes, the college doesn’t want you to submit any additional documents, so be sure to read the email carefully. If they need additional information, send them what they ask for by when they ask for it—nothing more, nothing less.
Remember, there are a lot of factors that go into college admissions that are beyond your control. You can’t control a school’s priorities- maybe this year, they needed a viola player, but you were a trumpet player. You can’t control what happened during COVID and lost opportunities or the rest of the applicant pool. While appeals can happen, they are highly unlikely, especially if you were denied during an Early admission round. Hopefully, you applied to a well-balanced list of colleges, and you have options in which you are excited. If not, you may need to regroup and reconsider. Hundreds of colleges have admissions deadlines well beyond January, and every year NACAC releases a list of colleges accepting applications even after May 1.
Even if you are confident that this institution is the place for you, you need to develop a Plan B. Check to see what the college’s waitlist policy is. Typically, you will need to accept your place on the waitlist, and you may be required to submit additional information. Last year, we saw a lot of waitlist movement, and some students heard back in April. If, by May 1, you are still on the waitlist, you will need to commit to another school.
As we’ve mentioned, a lot of these steps are going to be dependent on the school. Be sure to check your email often, and monitor your application portal as not to miss out on important information. We hope these steps will help you know what to do after you’ve applied to college. And as always, reach out if you have any questions regarding college admissions.