Education

After you've been accepted to college, here's how to not throw away your shot

South Pasadena High School counselor Sandra Jarrous helps tenth grader Erick Amaya and the school's other Latino students on the path to college.
South Pasadena High School counselor Sandra Jarrous helps tenth grader Erick Amaya and the school's other Latino students on the path to college.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

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Many high school seniors are either giddy or distraught right around now because they’re receiving acceptance letters from colleges and universities.

Most students have until May 1 to accept an offer. But high school counselors have a dire warning: every year they see students make poor decisions that hurt their chances to get into a college that’s a good fit, and for some, to go at all.

“Sometimes students will be like, ‘Yay, I got into a school, and I want to go to that school’ and just accept that offer and [make] a deposit without seeing their financial aid,” says Marshall High School college counselor Tricia Bryan. “You’re now enrolled to a school where you may not be able to afford, if you accepted without looking at the financial aid first.”

Some students make mistakes on the same day they receive an acceptance letter.

“[Students] will get the packet and they won’t read the rest of the material or they’ll sometimes throw it away,” said Yuridia Nava, counselor at Riverside Polytechnic High School. “In those packets, a lot of times, there’s really important information: there could be scholarship information and there could be work study information, information for housing.”

These mistakes are mostly the result of seniors feeling that a lot is riding on their decisions

“I think seniors right now have mixed emotions,” said Sacramento Charter High School college counselor David Marks. "They’re very excited when they get positive results, very upset and frustrated and taking personally the rejections or waitlists. I think a lot of them are scrambling a little bit to figure out what they’re going to do.”

Here's a list of do’s and don’ts, gathered from interviews with college counselors across California. 

WHAT TO DO

WHAT NOT TO DO