You graduated from high school and did all of the legwork to select and apply to college. It’s time to just chill this summer, right? After all, what could go wrong?
As it turns out, a lot can happen. Summer can bring all kinds of unexpected peril to your college plans. Let’s take a look at the most common issues and then examine the options to get your college plans back on track. Consider this your summer college back up plan.
No acceptance letters? Try a college with late or rolling admissions
Ideally, you started early and applied to several colleges—but we know that not every student does. Maybe you wanted to avoid the extra cost or paperwork involved. Or you thought you were well qualified for the school or schools you applied to. It’s definitely a disappointment, but don’t let it derail your goal to attend college.
Instead, apply to a college that offers a late deadline or rolling admissions. This means applications are processed in the order they’re received, until they filled every available opening. Contact the admissions office to make sure they are currently taking applications.
Don’t know where to apply? Check out the "Space Availability Survey Results" from the National Association for College Admissions Counseling. It lists colleges nationwide still accepting applications for the current school year.
Not enough financial aid? You still have options!
Ouch – this one really hurts.
If it happens to you, start by taking a closer look at your FAFSA. If your family experienced a recent significant financial change, you may be able to file an appeal.
Next, contact a college financial aid officer. He or she can help you discover ways to make up the difference with options like a part-time job or possible scholarships—including private scholarships from companies where your parents work.
Another option for keeping costs down is starting at a community college and then transferring. Community colleges typically offer open enrollment and are often much more affordable, so you’ll save money while you knock out some general education requirements.
Tuition averages just $3,520 for a public two-year in-district community college, compared to $9,650 for state residents at public colleges. Not only is tuition cheaper, but you’ll likely be attending a local school and can live at home (and keep your current job). Increasingly, states are offering free tuition for community college.
Most schools offer arrangements to easily transfer your credits to your four-year college. Granted, it’s probably not what you hoped for as you start your college journey, but at least you’re taking that all-important first step. If you want to skip the community college route, you can take option 1 and seek out a four-year college with rolling admissions – they may offer you better financial aid or have a cheaper cost.
Changed mind about your college? Maybe a year off will help.
You’re having second thoughts. It could be for personal reasons like wanting to remain closer to friends or family. Or maybe financial reasons like a job you want to keep or a scholarship opportunity at another school.
There are plenty of reasons why what you considered your dream school may change. And that’s OK. Some colleges continue to enroll students during the spring and summer months. Even if the beginning of the semester is just several weeks away, these schools are usually happy to work with you. The admissions office can help you understand your options, including any late application requirements, financial aid availability, orientation, registration, and more.
Consider taking a year off for work, travel, or volunteering before going to college. The experience can help you figure out what comes next in your life. A gap year can help you gain perspective (and learn more about the world). Working or volunteering in a career field that interests you also helps you try an option to see if it’s the right fit. Many current college students who took a gap year were ultimately grateful for what they considered a positive experience.
If any of these things happen to you, stay calm and think. You still have lots of options. Just being aware of your options can help keep the panic away — even if you just went through three boxes of Kleenex and scarfed four pints of Ben & Jerry’s.
To take a closer look at the college admission process while you work on that back-up plan, check out The Ultimate Decision Timeline.