The holiday season is a sentimental period, and for many young people, this is a time when they will receive decisions from colleges and universities on whether or not they have been accepted for admission. Most students apply to at least six or seven schools with some schools falling in the “safe” category with a high expectation of admittance, some in the “hopeful” category where a student is reasonably competitive, and then there are the “dream big” category schools that are highly competitive with low acceptance rates. Don’t sell yourself short — go for it.
It’s important for young people to know that just because you are not accepted for admission to a school does not mean you aren’t a good student. Each college and university only has a certain number of spaces available in each discipline or program. While there are often exploratory programs where you enter without a declared major, there are still limitations. Plus, consider that if you are applying to a school that provides what you may consider an optimum teaching environment with small class sizes and plenty of faculty attention, then it has to limit and control the size of the incoming class. So don’t get discouraged; it’s not a rejection of you, though it may feel that way.
I would like to offer some advice, as an insider regarding the college selection process. First, do not choose a college or university based on where your friends are going. You’ll make new friends, and this is a very important life decision, so be selfish. This is about you, not them. Visit campuses and determine if it feels right; is it too small, too large, vibrant, well-maintained, friendly, diverse … you get the picture. You know yourself best, so you’ll know what will work for you. You’re going to be there for a few years, so you need it to be a place where you can grow in a healthy way into your adulthood. What majors, minors, co-curricular opportunities are available? What about studying in another country? Internships? Ask all of those questions so you have a sense of the possibilities. And when you decide what college to attend, take advantage of all of the possibilities.
What is the proximity of the campus to your home? Family? Extended family? If you are applying to a predominantly residential campus where most of the students live there and you will be living on campus also, then you want to find out how roommates are selected. Also, what type of programming happens in the residential environment and, relatedly, is it a safe campus? Each campus should have an annual public safety report, which is a requirement of the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Act, so be sure and look at the crime statistics, which typically cover several years and should be up to date.
How much is this education going to cost? While this is an investment in your future, the costs typically cover tuition, other fees like recreation and entertainment, books, laboratory fees, housing and meal plans. You will need to know how much merit-based and need-based financial aid is available, along with loans and opportunities to earn money. Make sound college financial decisions that won’t break you when you’re done. While there are possibilities for school loan deferment if you continue on to graduate school, or other incentives for school loan forgiveness, still try and keep your undergraduate college costs down. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) recommended filing date is Dec. 1. It became available this year on Oct. 1, and you must have it filed by March 1, but many financial aid notifications begin in mid-January, so submit your FAFSA as early as possible. You want to have as much information available to make the most rational decision, and knowing how much financial aid you will receive is important. And remember, we need you as much as you need us, so be proudly college bound.
Dr. Terri Jett is an associate professor of political science and special assistant to the provost for diversity and inclusivity at Butler University.