Congratulations! You’ve received a college acceptance letter! Few things feel as satisfying as knowing years of hard work have come to fruition. It also means that it’s time to make one of the more important decisions of your life.

Whether it’s your safety school, the university of your dreams, or the last of several colleges you’ve been considering, remember that getting an acceptance letter isn’t the end of your acceptance process. Follow these tips to make sure you’re on the right path towards not only making a decision on which college to attend, but also successfully preparing for your first semester.

Be excited – you’ve gotten a college acceptance letter!

Getting a college acceptance letter is a wonderful accomplishment – so take the time to feel proud, relieved, and happy. Also be sure to think of those people in your life who helped you get there – teachers, coaches, mentors, parents and friends all deserve a special thanks.

Now breathe – you don’t have to decide on a college overnight

You may have known exactly which college you’ve wanted to attend since you were in elementary school. If so, you have a fairly straightforward decision now. But, if you’re deciding between a few options, don’t get overwhelmed. The National Candidates’ Reply Date for all colleges is May 1, meaning you have plenty of time to thoroughly research and evaluate your options.

Do your research and ask questions

When it comes to deciding which college’s offer to accept, do a little more research. Google will help you search for everything you can think of related to your potential new university:

  • The culture
  • What the city or town it’s in has to offer
  • What students do for fun
  • Specifics about your program and school of study
  • What clubs and other extracurricular activities are offered
  • What students think after their freshman year (and how many return)

Get insights from both students and faculty to really see the full picture. Also, scour social media: does the university have any accounts, hashtags or events you can follow? Seeing firsthand what students are doing and saying on the weekend, during class, or even when home for break can be insightful.

Your research should also include a campus visit, even if you already visited before applying. Your perspectives and priorities could have shifted since then. Find out what sort of open houses or overnight options are available that are specifically targeted towards accepted students.

Compare college financial aid options

The potential high cost of college is no secret – you and your family need to take your financial aid options into consideration when making this decision. Family members, guidance counselors, and online resources can help guide you through this unfamiliar territory. Don’t be shy about asking for help.

Also, make sure you’ve used all the resources you can to discover scholarships and grants available to you. Even if a school did not offer you any scholarships, there are probably still options available to you. A comprehensive search tool should ask you detailed questions on your background and interests, providing you with the whole picture on all financial aid you can apply for.

Notify the colleges whose offers you are declining

Once you’ve picked and sent your commitment to the college of your choice, be sure to let the other colleges know of your decision. Thank them for the offer but politely decline their offer.  Not only does this free up room for students on the waitlists at those colleges, but this courteous approach will also spare you from potentially burning any bridges.

Finish strong

Just because you’ve sent in your deposit that doesn’t mean it’s time to slack off! Stay committed to your classes and extracurricular activities to prove you’ve earned that spot in their freshman class. Poor academics in your last quarter of high school could also mean trouble for your scholarships, and you definitely don’t want to jeopardize that. Plus a great work ethic in the last months of high school, and throughout the summer, will help you successfully transition to the college workload and pace of life.