By Deb Coco
So, you’ve hit the submit button . . .what happens next? First, I tell all my students that it’s prudent to follow up with college admission offices and verify that they’ve received ALL the components of your application. You should do so about a week after you’ve applied. Believe me, we’ve seen the fall-out of panic when students realize they forgot to send their test scores or their supplemental essay…it happens. And, because there are so many moving parts to this process, (transcripts and recommendations from your high school, test scores from The College Board and ACT, in addition to the applications themselves) it just makes sense to “trust but verify.”
The most important quality during this phase of the college admissions journey is patience. The majority of our students begin working with us at some point in their sophomore or junior year, so once the application deadlines have come and gone, they are more than one-year in. It is at this point that the real waiting begins. Acceptances for Early Action and Early Decision normally begin to roll in around the holidays, but Regular Decision notifications won’t be available until February or early spring. That can feel like a lifetime of running to the mailbox.
Just hold tight because many students will receive at least one “deferral” letter. Deferrals place students who applied under the Early Action plan on a “wait list” until the entire application pool is reviewed – usually in the spring. Most schools will offer the option of remaining on the deferral list or not. This can cause some last minute anxiety, but unfortunately is quite common.
It is also very common for students (and parents) to JUMP at the first acceptance letter that rolls in. At this point, worry sets in and there is sometimes fear the first could be the last. We cannot stress this enough – HOLD TIGHT! Even if that were the case, (which it never is) with the exception of Early Decision, you have until May 1 to make your final choice and send in your deposit. We highly recommend you wait until you’ve heard from all of your schools. Why? Well, you took the time to write the essays and complete the applications, and in most cases visit the schools. So, a bit more waiting is part of the game. And, you just never know: what if some merit money or scholarship is part of an acceptance that you don’t wait for? Once you’ve “signed on the dotted line” with a school, it’s a done deal.
We also recommend that all students take advantage of Accepted Student Days. When spring rolls around and all letters have gone out, you will be invited back by schools and they will roll out the red carpet for you. Go back and look with fresh eyes. Visit a class, have lunch in a dining hall and walk around town — is this the right match? It may sound like too much work, but I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard that this was THE visit that changed a student’s mind. It is quite different to tour after you’ve been admitted!
The take away is that this process is long and drawn out, with curves and speed bumps. The sigh of relief after pushing the “submit” button is closely followed by worry, both by student and parent. Waiting is hard, and nowhere is that more evident than waiting for a letter of admission to arrive. I tell my students that the best way to fight the anxiety is to understand that the work is done. Don’t look back and don’t fret . . . it’s time to let go and let the process play itself out. Senior year comes but once in your life, so congratulate yourself on a job well done, sit back, relax, and await good news!