A College Guy Rant about being thorough...

Hey Seniors, By now you’re all ensconced in your final high school semester – how’s that feel?!! Enjoy this last go-around and don't lose too much of your focus (colleges have been known to pay close attention to those final grades!)
 
In this email I want to make one last pitch for sending a February "follow package"; remind you and your parents about the next steps required for your FAFSA and (where required) CSS PROFILE financial aid applications; and suggest to you three very important things to do as you begin to hear from your colleges.
 
Let’s get to it!
 
 
THE FOLLOW PACKAGE
 
I’ve described this idea in my last couple of emails, talking about sending additional information to each of your colleges, along with your mid-term grades. Seniors who have gotten their applications signed, sealed and delivered find themselves in the midst of an interminable waiting period, which could last until the end of March.
 
Facing such a void you have two choices: #1. Do nothing, or #2. Do something. The idea of this follow package is to “Do Something” - namely remind each of your colleges why they would be well advised to offer you acceptance, and perhaps supply them with additional reasons to do so.
 
I sent you suggestions and even a template of a cover letter, but the decision of WHAT you should send is up to you. Extra letters of recommendation, a new essay, a 'show and tell' piece, news about what you've been up to are all potential things to share with your colleges in this effort.
 
If you want me to resend you that descriptive email, or if you would like some help with this, feel free to reach out to me. ‘Nuff said.
 
 
FINANCIAL AID FORMS and your 2014 TAXES
 
All families who hope to qualify for financial aid should have filed the FAFSA and, where required by particular schools, the CSS PROFILE form by now. Some schools have their own institutional forms as well*.
 
Remember it's not necessary for you to have completed your 2014 taxes before you file these forms! Use estimates for now, file the forms, and try to have your taxes completed by the end of February (early March at the latest).
 
The next step for the FAFSA is to update it with your actual 2014 tax information when your taxes are done. You can do this by hand (choose the ‘make corrections to an already submitted FAFSA’ after you log back in at www.fafsa.ed.gov) or by using the “IRS Data Retrieval” option. This latter process is quick and easy and works most of the time once you’re taxes are filed. Wait a week after filing before trying it.
 
Many (not all) of the CSS PROFILE schools will contact you (or perhaps have already done so) via email requesting you to complete the “IDOC” process when your 2014 taxes have been filed. Read instructions and follow their directions. It’s not complicated.
 
Within a week or two of receiving a college letter of acceptance, you should receive notification of a preliminary financial aid award. If you haven’t heard anything after two weeks from when a college accepted you, call them (the office of financial aid) and ask when you can expect to receive your financial aid award. They’ll ask if you’ve filed the FAFSA (and any other required forms) so you can check to make sure they have everything they need.
 
Contact me if you want reassurance about this, or instructions for how to update estimated information you've already reported to colleges. I can't emphasize this point enough: DON'T WAIT - get these forms in now!
 
*To see whether a college requires the CSS PROFILE or their own institutional form, go to their web page and link to financial aid (or consult this list of PROFILE schools):
 
https://profileonline.collegeboard.org/prf/PXRemotePartInstitutionServle... ***
 
 
BEING THOROUGH... ...means remaining on top of things, both what I've mentioned above and the following.
 
THIS IS IMPORTANT!
 
Have you been waiting to hear confirmation from schools that your application is complete? Call them if you've not gotten that confirmation within two weeks after you sent your application. Are you still waiting to hear about an alumni interview (if you applied to a school which offers them)? Call admissions and ask if there's anything you can do to make it happen.
 
Whether or not you've already received acceptance notices there are three very important things I strongly advise you to do in the coming weeks and months. (By the way,I know many of you haven't heard back from your schools yet - and are not likely to for another month to six weeks. Don't worry if you're in this situation: only the colleges with 'rolling admissions', as well as schools where you may have applied early action or early decision, that will notify you this earl)
 
Here are those three things
 
#1. BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR, AND READ CAREFULLY all the emails and mailings you are receiving from your colleges. A large portion of these will be of only mild importance, designed to get you excited about attending their school and encouraging you to 'close the deal' by making your non-refundable deposit. NOTE BENE that you have until April 30 before you need to make any deposit, so don't allow yourself to feel rushed.
 
That said, SOME of the things you'll receive are of great importance, and need to be addressed. Registering on the schools' web page to receive future information; access the ‘student portal’ to get important news (like your actual decision); financial aid information; possible scholarship opportunities...all these (and more) may be the point of some of this correspondence. Therefore my word to the wise is PAY ATTENTION - BE THOROUGH - AND DON'T find out after an opportunity or deadline has passed that you missed something.
 
#2. BE ORGANIZED. Compile all the emails and hard copy mailings you're receiving from your colleges in labeled folders (electronic for the former, old-fashioned manila for the three dimensional stuff) - one for each college. You want to have a place for everything, and have everything in it's place. Nothing is sadder than seeing you shuffle through a messy backpack of crumbled papers saying to me: "hang on a second, that scholarship announcement was here somewhere...!"
 
#3. SAY THANK YOU! To each school as they accept you. Send an email to the person who signed your congratulatory letter, and 'cc' it to anyone else you may have had contact with (coaches, regional admissions reps, etc.). The email should express something like this sentiment:
 
"Dear So and so,
 
"I want to tell you how honored and elated I am to receive your offer of acceptance. You made my day! (If they've offered money, say): I'm particularly appreciative of the $4,000 Presidential Scholarship you've made available to me!
 
"Please know that as I await word from some additional schools I am strongly considering _____________ as my first choice (you can fib a little and say this even if they're not your first choice!). (If you applied for financial aid, add:) My family and I are eagerly awaiting word about any additional financial aid I may be eligible for.
 
"Thanks again!
 
Joe Beets
East Overshoe High School Class of '15
 
Okay, get the picture? For many seniors this time of year is just a waiting game, and hey if you're movin' and groovin' and keepin' busy and keepin' a good attitude there's nothing wrong with that. I'm just letting you know that there's still stuff you can be doing while you wait.
 
If anyone has questions, concerns or comments, pick up the phone and call or shoot me an email. As always, if you know seniors who may benefit from a shot of the College Guy, feel free to forward this email to them. And I’m beginning to accept undergraduates to my caseload now so if you know of a junior who could use some hand holding and butt kicking vis a vis the college process, pass my information on to them.
 
Stay groovy,
 
Gary