Applications to colleges seemed to be sent long ago. For high school seniors who applied Early Decision and were accepted, the decision-making is over. Those students had to accept the ED contract that if they were accepted, they would enroll in the fall of 2019. Their decision-making was completed unless extraordinary circumstances occurred.
However, most seniors have until May 1 to make a decision, as that is the National Candidate’s Reply Date. Students who were accepted to only one college have no choices to ponder. Yet, there are many seniors that need to make a choice, by the reply date, for they have been accepted by more than one college.
One day the student chooses College A, the next College B, then College C. Some ask this writer to choose for them. Just tell them either A, B or C. Sorry, I can’t make the decision for you. I will not be attending the college. You, the student, will be learning and living at that college. I can, however, help the student learn how to make the decision.
One suggestion is to visit your top two choices, now that there is less pressure because you have been accepted. You will visit the campus more relaxed than the first time you set foot there. Arrange to attend a class or classes. Maybe you can sleep in the dorms overnight, certainly talk to students, chat with a professor in your intended major, and visit the Hillel.
At this point in your pre-college career, write down the questions you have that have not been previously addressed. Why is this college a good fit for you?
Academics: Are the academics what you desire? Will the competition be over your head? Or, is the competition what you want? How strong is your intended major? Can you double major? What is the average class size as a freshman and in your possible major? Do you like large classes or smaller classes? Which size class will promote your learning and success in the classroom? Do the students brag about the professors? Are many classes taught by graduate students or teaching assistants?
Campus: Is the campus reasonably well-maintained? Facilities in good shape or falling apart? Classrooms and science lab updated? What about one’s living quarters? At one time, there were only dormitories. Then came suites like apartments. Where can freshman live or do they have to wait for the fancier rooms? Are the living facilities co-ed by floors, wings or single-sex?
Extracurricular Activities: Assuming you do not need to study all the time, what activities are available and to your liking? Is it difficult to gain entry to those activities? College is a place where you can explore. Interested in an activity you haven’t been involved in before? Perhaps you never had the activity in your high school.
Athletics: Have you been involved in high school sports? Are you regarded as a possibility for college sports? Have you been in contact with a particular coach? Can you be a walk-on? Or, what club athletics are there on campus that you can play? Is it easy to get tickets to the college’s football games?
Cost of Attendance: Finances are a major topic these days. The cost of attending any college is huge compared to years ago. Students, in many cases, are graduating college with debts from $20,000 to $25,000 or more. Parents should be talking about the financial aspects of each college.
There are two types of aid: need-based and merit-based. The latter is mostly awarded on grades and test scores. But there are financial awards not only for athletics but for departmental awards. Some private colleges are giving merit scholarships that one might not expect. Of course, families have, hopefully, filed the FAFSA [Free Application for Federal Student Aid]. In Georgia, you have the HOPE and Zell Miller scholarships for public colleges in the state and to a lesser extent for private colleges in Georgia.
Then, there are the need-based awards based on the ability of the family to pay, which, of course, stems from FAFSA or the College Profile required by some colleges. In our discussion, when a family is awarded aid by more than one college, the award letter has to be carefully studied. How much is scholarship, and how much is loan or work-study? How much of your need is being covered? Perhaps, 60 percent or 80 percent or 100 percent. While most scholarships or loans are from the college, there are some outside funds. For our readers, one such example is the Jewish Educational Loan Fund (JELF).
Can a family talk to the financial aid office at a college to plead their case for more money? Yes, but they first need to have the facts that will better explain their FAFSA results. Are there outstanding circumstances, such as a recent job loss, medical situation, or caring for an older adult which was not accounted for on the FAFSA?
Jews On Campus: What do you want Jewishly? For some, that is a major question. Do you want a reasonable Jewish population? How active are the Jewish students in Jewish activities? Is the Hillel or Chabad popular? How active is the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox or other such groups? Are there Jewish fraternities and sororities on campus? Are there Sabbath services? For those concerned, is there a kosher meal plan? Are Jewish students excused for classes on Jewish holidays? Is there a BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] movement on campus? Are there anti-Israel demonstrations? Anti-Semitism on campus? These are just a few of the Jewish concerns.
Mark Fisher is a college and career consultant at Fisher Educational Consultants, www.fishereducationalconsultants.com, and a consultant for the College Planning Institute, www.GotoCPI.com.