Picture this: after submitting your graduate application, and after waiting patiently for weeks or months, you check your email and there’s an email message from your top choice school. You log into the school’s portal to view your decision letter— and you’ve been accepted!

Okay, what next? You’ve been thinking about this moment for so long that you didn’t plan for what comes after. As someone who has been both a graduate student myself and as someone who now works in admissions, I’ve put together some absolute “must-dos” after you’ve received your acceptance letter.

First, CELEBRATE. I can’t emphasize this enough. Applying to graduate school can be a long and arduous process, and an acceptance letter is a clear stamp of approval that it’s all paid off. So whatever celebrating means to you, whether it’s treating yourself to a nicer-than-normal-dinner, taking a well-deserved nap, posting your acceptance letter on Instagram, calling your mom and all of your friends: do it! You’ve earned it.

Second, learn more. You’re probably yelling at me, “I already researched this school for my application!” That’s true! But professors, students, and alumni are going to be a lot more accessible to you now that you’ve been accepted, so take advantage of that. Most schools are hosting virtual events for admitted students (be on the look-out for more events coming soon at Heller!), so take advantage of that. Reach out to the admissions office for help in being connected to a particular professor, or a current student or alumni. This is really the time to get all your questions answered, so don’t be shy.

Another part of learning more is taking a look at your financial aid package. Yes, this is probably less fun, but it’s so important. Really read the fine print of each package, because every school frames their financial aid differently. Consider what conditions your scholarship has: at Heller, tuition scholarships are not tied to required research assistantships or teaching assistantships because we reward you for the work you’ve already done. However, at many schools, scholarships are dependent on working as a graduate assistant, which may make it difficult for you to work for outside organizations during your graduate program. Similarly, at Heller, scholarships are granted for the full length of your program; other schools might stipulate that your financial aid package is only for the first year or is subject to change. Even the length of the program matters! If you get offers from two schools that each cost $50,000 a year, and one gives you a 50% scholarship, and the other gives you a 60% scholarship, it may seem like a no-brainer to choose the one offering 60%. But if the 60% program is even one semester longer, you’d end up paying $25,000 more!

Finally, start thinking about the next steps. Review your school’s Admitted Student Checklist and start planning what you’ll need to do before next September comes around. Having a rough idea about what’s coming next will help prepare you so that you’re not scrambling in August to get a copy of your vaccination records, request official transcripts from your undergraduate institution, and find an apartment in the span of two weeks. This is especially true if you’re an international student: requesting an I-20 and scheduling a visa appointment can often take some time, so it’s best to start early if you can.

If you’re reading this because you have just been accepted to Heller: congratulations! I’m so excited to welcome you to the Heller community, and if you haven’t already celebrated, go do that right now!