9 Steps to Take After Selecting a College

You’ve chosen a college, now what?

National College Decision Day on May 1 marks the last day, in most cases, that first-year applicants can claim their spot at a college. But that’s just the beginning. There are other deadlines to meet and documents to fill out — related to housing, dining, course registration and medical records — before a student steps onto campus in the fall. So here are nine steps to follow after committing to a school.

Decline other college offers.

Each year, colleges and universities receive more applications than they have seats for — resulting in some students being rejected or put on a waitlist. Once you’ve committed to a college, decline any offers received from other schools. Some colleges require students to decline an offer over email, while others have a form to fill out online. Refer to a college’s website or application portal for specific instructions. “Hopefully declining will provide an opportunity for someone else who might be on a waitlist and who really wants to go to that school,” says John Durante, principal of Syosset High School in New York and host of The College Admissions Process Podcast.

Check your new college email.

Every incoming student receives a college email account shortly after committing, which they will use until graduation to communicate with classmates and faculty members. But even before move-in day, colleges use that email to remind new students of deadlines and to share information, like roommate assignments or orientation dates. So make sure you’re regularly checking your inbox, experts say.

Confirm your housing selection.

Schools typically send out a housing and roommate questionnaire shortly after a student commits. The forms ask questions around housing preferences and general interests as well as sleeping and cleanliness habits. Be honest in your responses, says Jennifer Sullivan, founder of Fast Forward College Coaching and author of books on the transition to college. “Don’t think about someone who would be fun to live with, but think realistically about yourself and about the person that you would like to share a space with.” Once housing is assigned, reach out to your roommate or housemates to learn about commonalities, create a list of items to bring on move-in day and, if you’re the decorating type, discuss a theme for the room.

Select a meal plan.

In addition to submitting housing and roommate preferences, accepted students are also required to select a meal plan. But that decision is not permanent. Plans can be changed up until a certain deadline every semester. Costs vary at each institution and by plan, as some plans come with unlimited access to dining halls and extra swipes to other food vendors on campus. Before purchasing a meal plan, consider your dietary needs and sleep habits. “Allow yourself some grace if you need to have a little bit of a larger meal plan as a freshman versus the next year,” says Candace Mackey, a college counselor at the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies, a magnet program in the Los Angeles school district. “This is a big transition.”

Identify available student services.

Before the semester starts, students with specific needs should identify and reach out to related support services on campus. For students participating in the federal work-study program, for instance, it’s important to get established early and learn about the available options, experts say. Meanwhile, if you need academic accommodations, contact the school’s accessibility office and provide the necessary documentation, like a statement from a medical care provider. “Sometimes students assume if they’re accepted to a college or university that their information is automatically shared with the accessibility office, and it’s not,” Sullivan says.

Connect with other incoming or current students.

Building connections with other students can start outside of orientation. Some schools host regional events around the country for students to meet peers that live near them. There are often a number of college social media pages to follow, including for class cohorts, sports, clubs and majors, so students with shared interests can interact. “It’s important to meet people so that when you show up on campus for the first time, at least you’re not doing it alone,” Durante says.

Attend events on campus.

Before the fall semester starts, colleges host events for incoming students to get acclimated to campus, including admitted students days and orientation. At orientation, which is generally held right before classes begin, students should expect to gain familiarity with campus buildings, meet with their academic counselor, connect with peers and handle more practical items, like setting up a student ID, registering for classes and taking placement exams. So experts urge students to attend one of these events, if possible.

Practice life skills.

College is a far cry from high school, with added responsibilities and independence. A college student’s academic schedule usually has gaps — unlike the back-to-back class format in high school — so experts advise applicants to start practicing time management. With no parents or family on campus to help, it’s also important to learn how to advocate for yourself and perform household tasks, like doing laundry or ironing. As a first-year student, don’t be afraid to reach out to faculty or staff members, Sullivan says. “From the campus side, no news is good news. If they don’t hear from a student, they think that the student is doing really well. But know that if you feel like you’re struggling a little in fall semester, that’s normal.”

Finish out high school strong.

It can be easy to get caught up in preparing for college attendance in the fall, but be in the moment during the last month of high school — prom and graduation are among the many milestones that happen during this time. It’s also important to stay focused academically, given that colleges still receive end-of-term transcripts. “You don’t want to show a dip in grades,” Durante says. “I’ve heard of kids that go on academic probation because of such.” And many students will still need to take Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams, which can lead to college credit and ultimately reduce your costs.

Prepare for freshman year.

Need more tips? Consider these ways to prepare for freshman year of college. And follow U.S. News Education on Facebook and Twitter for more advice on getting ready for college.

What to do after committing to a college

— Decline other college offers.

— Check your new college email.

— Confirm your housing selection.

— Select a meal plan.

— Identify available student services.

— Connect with other incoming or current students.

— Attend events on campus.

— Practice life skills.

— Finish out high school strong.

More from U.S. News

Living on Campus: A Guide to College Housing

Don’t Make These 10 Freshman Mistakes in College

What Every High School Senior Must Know About Student Loans for College

9 Steps to Take After Selecting a College originally appeared on usnews.com

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