This article originally appeared in the American College Application Campaign (ACAC) April 2021 newsletter.
“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” – Lady Bird Johnson
As flowers begin to bravely surface after shivering underneath the blanket of a cold, dark winter, I am reminded this year more than any other of the hope, joy, and renewal that comes each spring. Lady Bird Johnson’s quote about hope carries new and profound meaning in light of the trauma, stress, and anxiety many of our students have faced this past year. From protests for social justice and an unprecedented presidential election to school closures and the move to blended and online learning to job losses and food insecurity, the season we have endured has been difficult to say the least. But in the same way spring flowers bring with us hope for a brighter day, we are also now beginning to see tangible signs of hope that our nation is beginning to rebuild better.
And with that hope comes the opportunity for us to help students transform their hopes into reality by ensuring they know about critically important steps, processes, and deadlines. Below are ways you can help your juniors and seniors navigate their paths.
At this point in the year, college-bound seniors typically fall into one of three groups. The first includes students who have been admitted to a school, have made a decision, and have already begun taking the necessary steps for a successful transition. The second group includes seniors who successfully navigated the college admission process but remain uncertain about where they will enroll. And the final group comprises students who – for any number of reasons – have not yet applied to or been admitted to a school and are struggling to chart a course.
For seniors who successfully navigated the college admission process but remain uncertain about where to enroll, here are three ways to offer support:
- Focus on fit. One of the best ways to support students is to help them examine – or in some cases re-examine – their priorities as some may have changed. You may want to ask your students: Have home circumstances caused you to consider going somewhere closer to home? Have you discovered a new career path that’s changed the type of academic program you want?
- Maximize aid opportunities. Seniors have likely received financial aid packages from the schools they are considering. First, to understand some of the basics of the financial aid process check out myOptions’ blog, “3 Key Questions On The Role of FAFSA® In Making College Affordable Students”. You can provide your students a comprehensive guide to financial aid letters here and you can help your students learn how to compare financial aid offers here. It may also be helpful to know families can appeal their financial aid packages, particularly if a family’s finances have been affected by COVID-19.
- Visit virtually. Be sure students take advantage of admitted student days. Most colleges have totally revamped their admitted student days to accommodate our virtual environments. These events are specifically designed for students who have not yet made their college decision and often provide students with opportunities to interact with faculty and students. Check out this blog to learn more about ways students can “visit” campuses virtually.
For seniors who have not yet been admitted anywhere and are struggling with next steps, it’s important to remember the keyword is “yet.” It’s not too late! Many schools are still accepting applications for admission. Supporting your seniors in these ways will help ensure everyone gets the chance to celebrate the 2021 College Signing Day! And don’t forget that once students have made their decisions, there are important steps they may need help navigating to avoid summer melt.
College is a match to be made, not a prize to be won. Research shows that students who are well matched to a college are more likely to enroll, persist, and graduate from college. To find the best match, it’s important that students start by building a balanced list of colleges before they begin their senior year. One place to start is by creating a free myOptions account, where our proprietary algorithm uses students’ interests and preferences to produce a customized list of 25 schools that may be a good fit. And please be sure to tune into our “Friday Five” series where we will examine five topics in five minutes or less on five consecutive Fridays (posts began on Friday, April 9):
- How do you know if college is right for you?
- What do you want/need from a college?
- How do you build a college list?
- How do you begin to narrow your list?
- What steps should I take before deciding where to apply?