Congratulations—you did it! Your hard work has paid off. Once you have taken some time to celebrate being admitted to graduate school, consider taking the following next steps.
1. Thank those who helped you: While you did the lion's share of the work, there are others who helped with your application and gave you lots of encouragement and support along the way, especially if you were initially wait-listed.
Show your appreciation to any family, friends, recommenders, or interviewers who have helped you. You can take them out to dinner, send them flowers, or give them a gift certificate, but at minimum, send a thank you message, note or card. Send a thank you note to the person who signed your notification letter as well.
2. Read thoroughly any admitted student information you are sent: You will be provided with instructions about your enrollment deposit, financial aid, housing, admitted student campus visit programs, academic advising, course scheduling, new student orientation, student life, and much more.
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Clearly mark your calendar with any deadlines to make sure you do what is requested of you, like send in your enrollment deposit, file your financial aid documents, make your first tuition payment, and register for classes. Missing a deadline can make a difference, and can sometimes result in your being unable to enroll.
3. Talk to your new classmates: By now, you may have established contact with other admitted, current, or former students. Knowing some of your student colleagues before you enroll is always helpful.
Compare notes with your future classmates to get their impressions of the application process you have just been through, and of the admitted student follow-up you have been receiving so far. If there are other "admits" living near you, schedule a get-together with them.
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4. Schedule a campus visit: Whether or not you have done so already, now is a great time to visit the campus. Many institutions offer admitted student programs, which provide a great opportunity for you to meet fellow students, faculty, and staff. You may also arrange a visit with the admissions staff at any time—they would love to have you as a guest.
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If you really want to get an idea of what the institution is like, make an unannounced visit. An advantage of doing it this way is that since no one knows you are coming, you will experience things as they really are.
5. Prepare to relocate: Most institutions can help, but you will need to do a lot on your own. If campus housing is available, do not wait until the last minute to inquire and apply.
6. Start working on your financial plan: Even if you are not relocating geographically, there is a lot to consider in this time-consuming process. Make sure to read the fine print about every scholarship, fellowship, assistantship, and stipend you are offered. If you need loan assistance, be very careful to educate yourself about all that is involved before you sign on the dotted line.
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Be sure you know for how many years a scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship is offered. This may seem elementary, but it is amazing how many incoming students make false assumptions about the length of their non-loan-based financial aid. Be sure you know this before you enroll—you do not want any financial surprises.
7. Keep a list of suggestions: You will be exposed to the good, the bad, and the very bad post-admission. While things are fresh in your mind, make a list of suggestions and compliments to share with admissions staff after you enroll. If you are being "courted" by several institutions, make a list of "best practices" for following up with admitted students. You might even consider inquiring about being a student admissions volunteer or worker as part of your student experience. Admissions staff members are always looking for ways to improve their service.