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Making College Commitments: Schools Enticing Students and Parents Up Until the Last Minute

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It’s that time of year again … time for students to make some big decisions. College applicants should receive letters of acceptance or rejection from the schools to which they applied by April 1.

Nearly all colleges and universities require potential students to make a decision and a commitment by May 1; paying a deposit to hold their place in the freshman class should they decide to attend the school that fall.

This timeframe gives students at least one month to make a decision about whether or not they’d like to attend a school that accepted them, and it also gives colleges a bit more time to urge students to attend. Schools have begun bombarding students and their families with everything from emails to party invites in hopes of convincing them to accept their offer.

High Schoolers Applying to More Colleges than Ever Before

Today’s high school seniors are applying to more schools than previous generations of students, mainly because the Common Application and online applications have made the process so much easier than ever before. In fact, according to the College Board, colleges and universities across the country have reported record-breaking numbers of applicants over the past few years.

In January 2011, Daniel de Vise of The Washington Post pointed out that several top universities reported another year of record applications, including Harvard, which boasted 35,000 applications—a 15 percent increase over the previous year and a 50 percent increase over the past four years.

Counselors typically recommend that students apply to five to eight colleges, a number that allows for a range of colleges and gives students a good chance of being accepted by at least one of their top choices. Even so, ten to 15 percent of students apply to more than eight colleges and some send applications to as many as 20 schools.

Colleges Urging Accepted Students to Attend

Experts say that colleges are anxious for students to decide to attend after they decided to apply, mainly because the recession has made many families cautious of high tuition prices. The Los Angeles Times profiled Brendan Perry, a senior at South Pasadena High School who is debating which college to attend. He was admitted by six schools, all of which are inviting him to parties for accepted students, sending chat room invites, and urging him to accept their offers for a spot in the class of 2015.

“It makes you think about that school again,” he said in reference to the colleges that have been wooing him this spring. The 17-year-old attended events at UCLA for accepted students, but he is also waiting for financial aid details from Notre Dame before a possible trip to tour the campus in Indiana.

Choosing a College is a Family Decision

Colleges are now beginning to reach out to the parents of potential students, planning special parents-only events on campus and holding “mock classes” where parents can ask school officials questions before helping their children make a final decision.

Students have long sought to make independent choices about college. “Now it’s a family decision,” Martha Allman, dean of admissions at Wake Forest, told The Washington Post Local.

Parent Nancy Levinson of Long Island, New York definitely agrees. She told the newspaper, “I’m very involved with this whole process, almost to the point where it’s too much,” referring to her 17-year-old daughter, Shelby, who recently visited American University. “I’m at work in front of a computer all day, and she’s at school. I look things up. I don’t want her to wait to find things out.” Levinson participates in college-sponsored online chats and often calls or e-mails financial aid officers or department heads — things she said her parents never would have done.

The Tables are Turned on Students and Colleges

Just last week, University of Southern California dean of admissions Timothy Brunold welcomed 300 admitted students and their family members to a lunch reception. Members of the USC Trojan marching band performed before Brunold told students that “the tables were turned.”

“For months and months, colleges, USC included, have left you waiting to know if you were going to be admitted,” he said. “Now, believe me, we are counting the days until we find out if you are going to choose us.”

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.


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