In our last post, we talked about the phenomenon of summer melt, where up to 1/3 of the students who graduate high school with plans to go to college never make it to a college campus. We discussed what the student’s support team could do to help keep the student on track—but there’s also plenty the student can do to make sure their college plans don’t get derailed.
Open every piece of snail mail you get from the college, and read all of it. You’re probably used to getting all kinds of mail from all kinds of colleges, but once you’ve decided on a college, anything and everything they send you needs to be read. Just ask the student who opened the letter congratulating him for being admitted. He didn’t read the next page, which told him he had a $42,000 scholarship. Read it all.
Continue to check your email account. Email may be almost as old school as snail mail, but it’s still how many colleges communicate with students—especially if they need something in a hurry. The only way you find out what they need is to check email about three times a week in the summer. And make sure to check your junk email folder; some colleges send emails to thousands of students, and your email account may think it’s spam. It isn’t.
Look for the checklist. Most colleges send you a checklist with everything you’ll need to do over the summer, and when you need to do it. This checklist may come by snail mail, or as a link in an email, or maybe as a text. Print it out, and put it on your refrigerator at home; that way, your parents can help you keep track of what to do as well. If your college doesn’t give a checklist, there are others out there, such as this one from College Board.
Confused? Ask. If there’s any point over the summer when you don’t know what you should be doing, call the college. I know—students aren’t really crazy about talking to people on the phone, especially if they think the college will get the feeling that you don’t know what you’re doing.
Do it anyway. Once a college admits you, they will move heaven and earth to have you register, attend and graduate. There is nothing—NOTHING—they haven’t been asked before, so don’t feel like you’re the only one. In fact, colleges have Student Services offices because so many students have so many questions. If you don’t know how to contact them, call the admissions office, and they’ll tell you how.
It’s easy to feel alone in this transition to college, but you have a home team of family, friends and counselors who are there to help, even in the summer. There’s a ton of people at your college—your new home—who want to help you too, even though they haven’t met you. All you have to do is ask.
Make this happen.
Patrick O’Connor is a 2017-18 School Counselor Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education.