(written by Lori McCormick)
I field this question frequently, so I figured it was worth sharing a few general tips to help guide you through those next steps:
1. Check your email (and junk mail). Colleges will send confirmation that they received your application and provide details about what you should do next.
2. If you are asked to set up a portal or student user account, please do that immediately. Colleges will use this as their communications hub. Areas they will communicate about could be missing documents, financial aid information and admissions status (that is kind of a big deal!).
3. Double, triple check that you have all your documents submitted and that there are no loose ends.
4. Prepare for disappointment. Most likely you have applied to at least one college considered a “reach”. If you do not get accepted, that is okay. You may not see the reason today, but another college is waiting to accept you and welcome you to their campus. Trust the process, you worked hard, and it will pay off. If for some reason you end up receiving only denials, that is okay, too. Many colleges offer rolling admissions so there is still time to apply, or, consider starting at a community college. Community colleges are affordable and most offer Transfer Agreement Programs with CSU’s, UCs and several private colleges.
5. If you had help with your applications (school advisor/counselor, teacher, support program, mentor, etc.) provide them with an update. These people have been an integral part of your journey, and frankly, you needed them. Acknowledge this. A simple gesture of gratitude goes a long way. Be sure to send a second follow up once you hear back from your colleges and have accepted your admissions offer. Remember, they too were on this journey and are as anxious as you to know the status of your admissions acceptance.
6. Financial Aid and Scholarships – there is still time to complete the FAFSA (www.fafsa.ed.gov). Visit your school’s college and career center, Naviance, or wherever your school houses scholarship information. Start, if you haven’t already, researching scholarships and applying. Take the time you spent working on your college applications and roll that into scholarship applications.
7. Don’t slack off in the classroom. Senioritis is a real thing. Don’t catch it. I have seen firsthand students get their acceptances rescinded because of D’s on a senior spring report card. Devastating, to say the least.
8. Lastly, enjoy your few remaining months of being a high school senior. College is beckoning, and while that can be exciting, don’t forget to live in the present and make the most of the few memory-building moments you have left with your high school classmates.
If you have any additional "next steps" advice, please share in the comments section!