If it seems like only yesterday that you got your university applications in, that’s because it really was only yesterday. And now you or a friend may already have an offer from one of the schools to which you applied. So, now what
First and foremost, make sure you get and stay organized. Make sure you keep track either online or elsewhere of where you applied and where you have been accepted. In most cases, this is simply a matter of checking OUAC in Ontario, but elsewhere and if you are applying outside of your home region, you will have to track things in multiple places. However, you get organized, just make sure you do it.
Next, do not worry that other people are hearing before you. It all depends on the school, the program, etc. No two people’s applications are the same, so everyone will hear at different times. If you have applied to highly selective and very popular programs with supplementary applications, the wait will be longer. General programs with large intake send out acceptances quite early.
Hopefully, you have applied to a variety of schools and programs and given yourself the opportunity to receive multiple offers that you can consider. As the offers come in, be very careful to read them thoroughly. All offers will come with conditions at this stage. If the offer is based on last year’s marks, schools will want to see your final grades for this year. Though in most cases it is fairly difficult to lose and offer, it is not impossible. So, make sure you continue to work hard until the end of the year. I have seen far too many students lose their dream acceptance because they caught a bad case of senioritis which is often described humourously as an affliction of students in their final year of high school or college, characterized by a decline in motivation, performance, and attendance. Funny until you lose an offer you worked 4 years or more to earn.
Do not jump at the first offer, even if it is your dream offer. As noted earlier, take a careful look at the offer. What are the conditions? Is this still the place for you? Was it always the place for you or just the place you thought was for you because everyone else applied there? Do you see yourself at the same school even if you decide after a term or at the end of the first year that the dream program isn’t for you? Wait to hear from all the schools and mull over your decision. So long as you make the deadline, there is seldom a reason to accept early. Unless you know for certain that there is an offer you can’t refuse.
As the offers come in, you also have to make sure you understand the terms of any scholarship offers. If money is an issue, and it very often is, what offer makes the most sense to you and your family? Consider whether you will need to work part-time as a result of an offer and scholarship package and whether or not this is something you are willing to do. Also, keep in mind that because of the pandemic, traditional options like waiting tables, working at the campus gym or bookstore may not be available to you for the foreseeable future. And also be aware that these spots are often just as highly coveted as offers from high demand programs.
Speaking of the pandemic, do you know what the plan is this year at the schools you have applied to? Are they fully online, hybrid? Are residences open? This will vary from school to school and from region to region. Knowing what a school is doing this year isn’t a certainty that things will be the same next year, but depending on the location of the school, it will at least give you an idea of what might happen next year. Is studying from home okay with you or do you want to be at school even if you can’t get into a residence and have to live off-campus? Again, there’s no certainty, but keeping this top of mind is important.
Have you visited, virtually or otherwise, each of the schools to which you have applied? This really is so important. Viewbooks and videos are all well and good, but walking the streets of the towns and cities is a must. You will be living there for at least four years, many students end up falling in love with their university town and end up living their full time after graduation. Knowing the lay of the land and seeing the day-to-day reality of a school and its locale cannot be overstressed. I know it is more difficult to get the feel for a place given the pandemic, but just as COVID has brought out the best and worst in people, so too has it brought out both ends of the spectrum for university cities and towns. Get a sense of how the university and its region are getting along these days. It is imperative to understand the status of the town and gown relationship before you join a community.
When I advise and mentor students about university applications, I always note that what they want is options. So, hopefully, you have applied to a variety of programs and schools. Though nothing is guaranteed and not everything is a reach, there are safer choices and more tenuous options. But the idea is to make sure your applications give you multiple options. As these options materialize or vaporize students see the method in my madness. Pondering all aspects of each decision is a necessary process and one which I have just touched upon in the post. Every situation is unique and every aspect of each opportunity should be considered before a final decision is made. And remember one bad or good experience should not sway you either way. You will find friends and family who loved and hated the same school. It doesn’t make the decision any easier to know this, but you still want to hear all sides of the argument. If you or someone you know are having a difficult time choosing between options, let me know and I can assist you in the process. The decision you make now is not life imperiling, but putting the time and effort into the decision-making process will certainly pay dividends down the road!