You researched colleges, you visited campuses, you agonized over your choices and finally narrowed it down to your one chosen favorite – the lucky winner of your Early Decision (ED) application. After submitting the application in early November, you moved on – there were other applications to complete, midterms to take, and Thanksgiving break plans. But all of the sudden it is now December! You could actually hear back as early as next week from some schools (though most schools will notify applicants more towards the middle of the month).
How can you stay calm while waiting for what feels like the most important decision of your life?
Focus on the great schools you have already been accepted to. This time last year, one of our clients applying ED to Cornell had already received a generous scholarship to Tulane University. Another had been accepted to the Honors program at the University of Pittsburgh. A client who applied Early Decision to Bates College had been offered a substantial merit award from Clark University, and a student applying ED to Tufts was excited to have already been offered a spot at his dad’s alma mater, Indiana University. We encourage all of our clients to apply to at least one school with rolling decisions or early notification. That first acceptance does wonders for students’ stress levels!
Stay off of social media. If your school is one of the later ones to release decisions, or if you didn’t get the news you were hoping for, do you really want to see pictures of your friend Johnny sporting all of his new Duke gear?
Make sure all of your other applications are in. I know it is tempting to let your regular decision applications sit – after all, they aren’t due until January, and you may get good news from your Early Decision school in mid-December. But what if you don’t? Then you’re in a bad mood, it is Winter Break, and you’re doing a sloppy rushed job on your remaining applications instead of enjoying the holidays. Plus Murphy’s Law says that if you invest a lot of time on the other applications, you’ll end up getting into your Early Decision school, right? And at that point, you’ll be so happy you won’t care about the wasted time or application fees.
Focus on your grades. Senior grades matter. A LOT. Particularly for regular decision schools, and any Early Decision or Early Action schools where you are deferred to the regular pool. These schools will all be waiting for your fall transcript, and these are the grades that tell them the most about the student you will be when you get to their campus. And if you are admitted Early Decision or Early Action, schools will still want to see your final transcript before you officially enroll. Last year I had a client who was questioned about her dramatic drop in grades second semester, and she had a rocky 48 hours in June where she wasn’t sure if the school was going to revoke her acceptance.
Spend time with your family and friends. After all, in about nine months, you’ll be moving away – possibly to the next town, or possibly across the country. Cherish the time you have with your family and friends while you can. Have your mom teach you how to do laundry and boil and egg.
Remember that there is more than one “perfect” school. You have a variety of schools on your list for a reason. They all have something to offer and if you put together a thoughtful list then they should all be schools where you know you can be happy and successful. Every one of my clients who did not get in to his or her ED school has ultimately been excited about his or her options.
Continue doing the things you love. Hopefully all of those activities weren’t just for college applications. So keep volunteering at the soup kitchen, training for the half-marathon, or teaching kids to play piano. Hobbies are one of the best ways to relieve stress. I hear that some people find baking brownies to be very calming – if this is you, I can send you my address!
Good luck making it through the waiting game of the next several weeks and/or months. For two great New York Times articles on coping with the stress of college admissions decisions, check out: College Advice for the Cost of a Single Post-it Noteand How to Survive the College Admissions Madness. And just remember Frank Bruni’s sage advice in his best-selling book title, “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be.”