You've submitted your college applications. Your fate is now in the hands of the admissions staff. What else can you do? Actually, quite a bit.
Recent surveys of college freshmen report that about two-thirds end up attending their first-choice school. A little less than one quarter attend their second choice. These may not be your own odds, but then again, you may have good cause to let go of some stress.
But Don't Relax Too Much
Don't relax about your senior grades, however. Your college will ask to see them and will expect them to be consistent with the grades you submitted with your application. If your grades have dropped, the college may ask for an explanation and even ask you to meet conditions, such as bringing up your grades, before they allow you to enroll in the fall.
Make Sure the Colleges Have What They Need
Check with the admissions offices to make sure that they received your application, that your file is complete, and that they have your letters of recommendation and any other supplemental materials. Contact your high school to make sure they sent your midterm grades. An incomplete application could delay your acceptance or affect your admission chances. If anything is missing, don't panic yet. Double-check in a week or so and arrange for any piece still missing to be sent to the college as soon as possible.
Keep on Top of Changes and Late-Breaking Info
Sometimes things change after you submit your application. It could be something simple such as your address or phone number changing. But you may decide to switch majors or take a different SAT Subject Test. Admissions offices don't like surprises, so let them know.
If you take the SAT or the ACT in December of your senior year, make sure the testing agencies report your scores to all the colleges you've applied to.
Continue to Show Your Interest
Colleges want students who want the college in return. There are lots of ways to let colleges know how much you want to attend, such as visits and interviews. You could also send a letter to your college representative describing recent accomplishments and explaining why you continue to be interested in the college and believe you would make a good contribution.
But don't call repeatedly to find out when admissions decisions will be sent. You want to be remembered for being a great candidate for admission, not a pest.
Visit Your Colleges, Especially Your Top Choices
If you didn't get a chance to visit a college before you applied, now is a good time to do it. Visiting is the best way to get a feel for the campus. Talk with students and see what they like or dislike about it, sit in on a class, experience the weather, eat in the cafeteria, tour the dorms, and appreciate the landscape, architecture, and surrounding community.
Interview with Your Top Choices
Even if it is not required, consider scheduling an interview with a college representative or alumnus, either on campus or in your community. Bear in mind that it's a two-way street. Your interviewer may ask you some questions, but you're encouraged to ask questions too, to see if you'll fit in and enjoy your time at the school.
Focus on Finances
Complete all financial aid applications and other forms required by your colleges. Also be sure you understand how to get merit aid and scholarships from each college. There may be separate forms and deadlines. All this information should be on the college website. Also research scholarships offered by outside providers—many of their deadlines fall after traditional college deadlines so you might still have time to apply. The Scholarship Finder can help you find awards.
Research Your Colleges, Including Your Backups
Even if you know a great deal about your colleges, learning more about them can be helpful. If you don't get into your first choice, you will know a lot about your other options. You won't have to rush to do further research between the time you receive your acceptance letters and the deadlines for your tuition deposit.
Start with the college website. Here, you can check out student organizations, performance groups, student newspapers, and class elections. Study the catalogs and departmental websites. Find out which courses are required for freshmen and which are electives, what standards exist for academic performance, and what opportunities are available for independent study, special seminars, and lab work. If you have questions, you'll have time to contact departmental representatives to learn more about specific programs at specific colleges.
You are on the home stretch. Enjoy the rest of your senior year, knowing that you are going to college—a college that has sifted through its pool of applicants and chosen you!