The responses can determine your student’s next steps. 

Just in time for the holidays, colleges will begin sending acceptances and rejections to applicants, particularly those who chose the Early Action route. (Early Decision students have already heard and know where they’re going, or not going.)

If your senior is one of the recipients of a decision in the next couple of weeks, consider yourself lucky. Here’s why.

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Acceptances mean your teen’s going to college—somewhere As we told our kids when they applied, you only need to be accepted to one school.

A teen’s confidence is boosted when they receive that first acceptance, even if it’s not from their top choice college. They got in somewhere and can share the news with their friends. As the parent, you should breathe a little sigh of relief, too.

If the acceptances are from any of their top choice schools (and fit your family’s college budget), then nix the remaining one or two applications they considered sending out, especially if they’re “safety” schools. Save yourself money on unnecessary application fees.

Rejections mean fill out a few more applications Sometimes the first responses are negative. Allow your teen to feel dejected for a day, then get on them to finish the applications for schools still on their list.

Research other colleges, checking application deadlines carefully. Review your senior’s SAT or ACT test scores as well as their high school GPA and compare those numbers to the averages at these new colleges.

Look where the rejections are coming from. Colleges nearby or far away? Reach schools or safety schools? Larger or smaller? If you see a pattern, use that to determine what type of schools your student should apply to in this next round.

Ask for assistance from your senior’s guidance counselor who can offer suggestions on colleges that better fit your student’s academic profile.

Don’t let your teen give in to the feeling that “no school is going to want me.” There are thousands of colleges in this country and plenty still have spots available for incoming freshmen.

money3Financial aid packages come later Usually there is no information on scholarships or financial aid with the early acceptance letter, but a few weeks later, colleges mail congratulatory notes about merit-based scholarships which are awarded based only on grades, community service, etc. They are not need-based.

Need-based financial aid packages, which are tied to family income, are awarded in early spring, but in enough time before the May 1 National Acceptance Day (the deadline for seniors to inform a college whether they accept an offer of admission).

These packages are based on information sent in through FAFSA , which is the federal financial aid form most colleges use, plus the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE required by some schools. You’ll need your federal income tax information handy to fill these out. (Read my posts about FAFSA to learn more.) Currently, FAFSA applications are available online starting January 1 and most colleges want them completed within a couple of months. Note that for the 2017-2108 academic year, the application will be available October 1, 2016 providing families the opportunity to know their expected family contribution (EFC) before their senior has finished college applications.

If your student’s college decision will be determined mainly by the amount of aid they receive, then make sure they’ve applied to all the colleges on their list and completed financial aid applications for all of those schools by their deadlines so they have the most options.

Making a decision is still a long way off Even though your student might have received an acceptance or two, that doesn’t mean they need to pick a college now. In fact, their mind will change about where they want to go weekly, if not daily between now and May 1. I recommend responding and putting down the required deposit a month or two before then, if possible, to get the best housing and orientation date options.

I hope that if you’re hearing some news from colleges, it’s all positive, making this a happy holiday season for everyone in your household.

Share your thoughts and experiences on how your family reacted to those first acceptances and rejections in the comments section below. 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/20315868@N04/2617324436″>my mailbox…farewell</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/9731367@N02/7643873724″>100 Dollar Bills</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;