Waiting for College Acceptance Letters: A Mother's Perspective
It's hard for me to believe that this year has finally arrived. My daughter, love of my life, the apple of my eye, is preparing to graduate in June and then will be off to college in the Fall. I don't know where the time went. I can still remember her as a curly red-haired little angel looking up at me with a big toothless grin. And the first day of kindergarten all dressed up in her first-day-of-school finest waving to me from the big yellow school bus. And going off to her first middle school dance with her friends in new fancy dress shoes. And the first year of high school when she determined that she was going to go to an Ivy League College, preferably Harvard, and throughout her high school career, studied hard to get the grades so that she could maybe just do that. And now, the time is almost here for her to take the next big step in her life.
In her junior year, we visited a few colleges, and in the summer we made a list of the colleges she still wanted to visit. We didn't make it to as many as we had planned to because she had her first job last summer and worked 40 hours per week. She was working to save money for college. By September of her senior year, she decided what she wanted to major in: film/screenwriting. That narrowed the list of colleges she had been considering because they didn't all offer that major. Harvard was out because they didn't offer that as a major. But she still wanted to apply to some Ivy League schools just to see if she could get in, and find other schools that offer a good program in her chosen major. She started her senior year of high school with a 4.17 GPA and 10th in her class of 570 students. She had done the absolute best she could to set herself up for the best college available to her. And then the hunt began in earnest.
Fall, Senior Year:
*We started on the great college hunt with a new goal in mind: finding the best college to fit her personality and her major, but also one that we could afford.
* She took the SATs a second time because she didn't like her first set of scores. Her second set of SAT scores was almost identical to the first.
* She asked her guidance counselor and three teachers for letters of reference.
*We Googled, "Best Colleges for Film," and "Best colleges for Screenwriting."
*We compared what we found online to Rugg's recommendations, Mr. Ruggs being a self-proclaimed expert at recommending colleges.
*We looked up colleges that give the most financial aid, merit, as well as financial need. For those of you who haven't crossed the preparation for college bridge yet, merit aid is given by certain colleges based on a student's grades in high school. Financial need is determined by filling out a FAFSA form online. ( See below for more FAFSA info.)
*We made a NEW list of colleges based on her choice of major. She chose a list of 9 colleges at which she wanted to apply, although her guidance counselor recommended that she apply for 6. My ambitious daughter is an overachiever and wanted to go the extra mile and have more choices. We live in Connecticut, and my daughter wants to get away and experience the world, so she has applied to only 1 in Connecticut, 1 in Massachusetts., 3 in Pennsylvania, 2 in New York, and 2 in California.
* We visited more colleges. We took tours. We sat in on informational sessions with admissions representatives and current college students.
* She wrote her college essay, and had it proofread by her English teacher and Guidance counselor approximately five times each!
* We looked up dates that she had to apply by to qualify for merit aid because some colleges have a separate date for this.
*She spent countless hours filling out the Common Application for all the colleges that accepted this one form.
*She filled out separate supplementary applications segments for the schools that required them.
* She filled out separate applications for the three schools that didn't take the Common Application at all.
January, Senior Year:
*She had two interviews with colleges that called asking for interviews.We researched what to expect in a college interview. We also researched questions she might be asked, and questions she could ask to make the best impression in the interview. Neither interviewer asked her any of the questions the articles said they would.
* We filled out the FAFSA form. FAFSA stands for Free Application For Federal Student Aid. A parent/student go to this website between January 1st and February 15th of the student's senior year of high school, fill out many questions based mostly on your income tax forms from the year before, and at the end of this long and involved process, you will receive something called the Student Aid report, which contains the EFC ( Estimated Family Contribution). This is how much the government thinks your family should be able to pay for your child to go to college. Some colleges, particularly Ivy league, will make up the difference. Some colleges will try to give as much as they can, but not meet the total need, and some may not give anything. The tricky part is that if you have divorced and remarried, they want to see the income of the new stepparent as well, and that will figure into the EFC equation. Many people tell me that this can not possibly be true. They feel it should be the students two biological parents who pay for their child's education. And although I agree with them, it is very true. It was a blanket decision that the people at FAFSA came up with a few years ago so that they don't have to look at everyone's situation on a case by case basis. Since I have remarried, there are now 3 of us in this financial equation.
* We filled out the CSS Profile for the 5 of the nine colleges that requested it. The CSS profile stands for the College Scholarship Services profile which is through the College Board and again looks at a family's financial situation even more in-depth though than the FAFSA.If a college requires it and it is not filled out, they won't have the information to offer the student more financial aid.
*During all this time she has been choosing, visiting and applying to colleges, she has also kept up to date with the requirements for five Advanced Placement college courses ( courses taken for college credit during high school), participated on the Cross Country team, and the Indoor Track team, taken mid term exams, applied for local scholarships through organizations in our town, applied for national scholarships, and been the vice president of her class.
And Now the Wait Begins...
And now here we are, on the first day of March of her senior year. We have heard from 2 colleges so far. One was an acceptance, and one was a rejection. The rejection hit her hard. It was the only one she had applied for as Early Action, so she knew the result on December 15th. The acceptance was her safety school. So although I as her mom, was thrilled to hear from a college and knew where one of her choices could be, she was not as excited. The wait continues. I feel as though because I was so involved in the process of the search, the college visits and tours, reviewing the essays, proofreading the applications before they were sent in, driving her to the interviews, and encouraging her along the way, that this is my adventure as well. I want to ask her daily if she has heard from any colleges yet because some will email her directly. But I know this will only add to the anxiety of the wait, so I control myself, and only ask every ten days or so. I know this is really her journey, so I try to give her space. Most of the schools she applied to were regular decision. We will have to hear from them by April 1st as that is the deadline for colleges to let applying students know. And we will only have one month from April 1st to decide which college she will be going to as May 1st is when college deposits are due. That doesn't seem very fair to me. They make students and families wait most of the senior school year, and then we only have one month to decide which is not only the best fit but the best fit that we can afford. Some of the seven schools will let her know earlier than April 1st. Some will tell her on the last day, through an email. When the colleges send out the acceptance letters, only then do they include the financial aid package. I feel as though I am about to tear my hair out. I believe she is handling the wait better than I am. I just see that she has worked so hard for this, and wants to go to the best college she can, and I know the wait is hard on her. But we are playing the waiting game for now. Each day brings us one step closer to knowing what her choices will be. And so, we wait...and wait...and wait some more!
It is now April 3rd, 2012, and we have heard from all of the schools my daughter applied to. Here they are in alphabetical order, with the response of each next to it:
Boston University: Accepted
Brown University: Denied
Columbia University: Denied
Drexel University: Accepted
Fordham University: Accepted
Loyola Marymount University: Accepted
Penn State: Accepted, main campus
University of Pennsylvania: Denied
We live in Connecticut, and here are the choices she has, based on acceptance letters:
Boston University: Boston, Massachusetts
Drexel University: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Fordham University: New York City, New York
Loyola Marymount University: Los Angeles, California
Penn State, Main Campus: University Park, Pennsylvania
The big question now is where will she actually be going? That depends on how much financial aid she receives from each school. We have already heard from 2 colleges, one is giving a fair amount, and the other is giving her absolutely nothing. Since the one that is giving us nothing is $57,000 per year, that college is out for her. And once again...now we wait. We are waiting to hear from the other three schools, and once we hear, I will give another update on that, and her final choice. This whole college process continues to be frustrating. We have until May 1st to make a choice and give a deposit at the school of her choice, but it's already April 3rd, and we are still waiting for financial aid information. So at this point, we have no idea where my daughter will be going to college...and she will be leaving in 5 short months!
Update: May 2012
And the winner is...
Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania! Not only did Drexel give my daughter the most money in scholarships, but she also really liked the city of Philadelphia and the fact that they have a co-op program where students actually get to go out and work for six months instead of going to school. When she graduates, she will have six months of work experience in her major already under her belt. There is a 4-year program with one co-op, and a 5-year program with three co-ops and the number of co-ops offered depends on the major you pick. We are very happy and relieved that the great college search has come to a close!
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Final College Update
I just realized I needed to update this article. I am proud to announce that my daughter graduated from Drexel University on June 10th, 2016 with a major in film and a minor in business. We were so proud of her as she walked into the auditorium with all of her friends from the film department, and then as she walked across the stage to officially graduate. Her journey to college was a long one, but in retrospect, the four years seem to have flown by...for me anyway. I am so happy my daughter has followed her dreams to do what she loves and I can't wait to see what the future holds for her!
© 2012 Karen Hellier