Parents: Tips for the final college decision

by Jennifer Johnson,

  • Willamette University

Your student has been admitted to college — maybe several. Now what?   

Encourage your student to ask questions. Now is the time to put to rest any lingering questions — whether it’s more details about student life, housing or classes. Ideally, your student should feel comfortable and clear-headed about the decision. “The only bad questions are the ones you don’t ask,” says Interim Dean of Admission Mary Randers. 

Reflect. Can your student envision being happy there? What did the campus visit feel like? Suggest thinking about past communication with the university, the programming there and any conversations with other campus community members. By now, your student may have developed a gut feeling about a place that should be considered. 

Dig deeper into the financial picture. For preferred schools, make sure your student has applied for all aid and received a response, said Willamette’s Director of Financial Aid Patty Hoban. Assumptions based on published tuition prices can be misleading because they do not factor in grants or scholarships you might receive. You could unnecessarily rule out a school.

If you’re wondering whether one university can match the aid offered by another, contact the schools' financial aid offices, she said. When comparing offers from different schools, be sure to check the figures from each award packet. Is your calculation an apples to apples comparison? Does it include (at the very least) tuition, fees, books and room and board costs for each college? How much of your award is a loan and how much is free? 

If you can't afford your first choice, contact the school to ask if something else can be done — most institutions have an appeal process to request additional financial aid. 

Second look. Visiting top colleges — if your family can afford it — can make all the difference. Some things can only be experienced. During a visit, students can get a feel for the environment, explore the surrounding area and the general mood of the place. Most of their time is going to be spent on campus, and four years is a significant stretch, so it’s important to find a place your student can feel comfortable in and thrive. 

After the final decision… 

Revisit financial aid. Questions about the deposit, payment plans, reevaluating the financial aid package or sourcing loans should be directed to the college’s financial aid office, said Willamette’s Senior Associate Director of Admission Sue Corner. 

When is orientation? Hotel rooms can book up fast around that time of year. Decide whether you need to start thinking of dates. 

Housing. At Willamette, all first-year students live in the same residence complex, so no one has to worry about missing out on the right one, said Corner. However, that’s not true at all universities and some have firm deadlines — check with your institution to make sure. 

Course selection. Classes can fill up fast, depending on the university, so make sure you have time to choose what you need. (Colloquium courses at Willamette fill up especially quickly.) 

Special accommodations. Students who have support animals or might need certain accommodations — such as not being able to take courses in buildings with stairs — should notify their housing office as soon as possible so those needs can be met.

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