Plus expert advice on how to decide among college acceptances.

Spring brings a flurry of to-dos for college-bound high school seniors and their parents, including picking a school by National Decision Day on May 1. But other factors may be sending some students into panic mode, like being rejected by every college that they applied to or realizing they missed the financial aid deadline at the college of their choice. Read on to find out how to work through any and all of these issues.

stressed studentMoving on from rejection Since one of the most popular posts on this blog is “When Your Son or Daughter is Rejected by Every College,” realize that your child is not the only one who experienced this crushing blow. I feel for kids who find themselves in this situation whether they did everything “right” or applied only to reach schools. But there’s no time to sit and pout, or for you to offer a lecture. College can still be in their future. Read the post and help your student find a way out of their dilemma.

Finding help with tuition after a missed financial aid deadline This one falls squarely on Mom and Dad since most of us don’t give our children access to our tax returns. I missed out on receiving financial aid my freshman year of college because my parents’ accountant did their taxes too late—he insisted my college’s deadline had to be later, like at his son’s school.

Each college has its own due date for FAFSA, and, if required, for the CSS Profile. Sometimes the paperwork needs to be filed before an admissions decision is made because certain colleges prefer to include the financial aid package with their acceptance letter.

If you missed the school’s deadline, your child will likely receive less or no aid directly from the college, but need-based federal grants, loans and work-study, administered by the college, may still be available. Colleges allot a certain amount of money for scholarships each year, so the students who apply the earliest are likely to get the most money. Keep in mind, once colleges know who’s accepted their offers of admission (after May 1), more aid might become available for late filers.

In the meantime, file your FAFSA now to qualify for need-based aid, definitely before the June 30 deadline. Check out and to find private grants and scholarships. Also, call the financial aid office and speak with someone directly about your particular situation.


Deciphering the financial aid package For many families, the college choice comes down to cost. Read my post on how to understand what’s being offered, as well as this one on paying for college, to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.

Most importantly, borrow as little as possible. But if you must, check out this post on the different types of student and parent loans.

Making “the decision” Picking the right college among acceptances can be tricky because several factors go into choosing a school. College admissions officers from Binghamton University and Catholic University shared with me their advice on how to decide among college acceptances .

Still stuck? Read my post on the factors that can help break the tie between those two or three favorite colleges.

Need more advice? Check out my “Ultimate Guide to Making the College Decision.”

Preparing for orientation Though most kids attend the summer sessions, you may find yourself on campus with your child this spring if that fits your schedule best. Before you go, read my post on what to expect at orientation.

What else are you grappling with this spring with your high school senior? Ask your questions or share your own advice in the comments section below. 

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