Professors' Advice: What to Do While You're Waiting to Hear
Listen to this professor's advice on what to do while you're waiting to hear about your college acceptance.
By Dr. Lynn F. Jacobs and Jeremy S Hyman
March 11, 2009
February and March are tense times for everyone involved in the college admissions process. College hopefuls all over the country are waiting to hear from their top choices. Angst is rising, and parents are helpless to end it. And colleges are reading files and moving them through evaluation stages in the rush to “get the decisions out.” This week, visiting blogger Bruce Walker, vice provost and director of admissions at the University of Texas at Austin, offers 10 tips to keep you from going nuts and taking others with you:
- Take ownership of your application. Colleges spend big bucks developing Web technology that keeps you informed about what’s missing and when your application is complete. Use it. If Web notification isn’t available, then contact the admissions office directly to make sure all materials have been received.
- Don’t second-guess yourself. Could your application have been different? Absolutely. Could you have spent more time on the essays and picked the alternate topic instead? Yes. And could you have picked someone else for your letter of recommendation, emphasized a different activity, or written differently about your academic and out-of-classroom passions? Without a doubt. But that is not the reality in which you now live, and it is highly likely that none of that would have changed the decision. (And, by the way, you could also have a different girlfriend or boyfriend, live in a different house in an entirely different neighborhood, and attend a different school. Wouldn’t that be creepy?) Don’t beat yourself up by creating a false reality. You will be much healthier if you congratulate yourself on a job well done and relax in the knowledge that you did your best and now it is out of your hands.
- Put down that phone. Contrary to popular belief, calling the office of admissions to ask why you haven’t heard doesn’t speed up the process, which has to go through all its stages. The size of the applicant pool, the number of staff available to read the files (and not tied up answering phones), the extent to which the college wants to get to know the applicant before making the final decision, and the pace at which the applications come into the office – all of these put an upper boundary on how fast the decision process can go. So, chill in the knowledge that everyone is working as fast as possible to bring the madness to a close.
- Get busy with next steps. No matter what decision you get, there will be things to do next. Get started on them now. Form a back-up plan in case you don’t get into your first choice. Be sure you’ve filled out all the forms for financial aid or scholarships at the schools you’re waiting to hear from. Especially important is the FAFSA (the form everyone must complete in order to receive federal aid), which is electronic and can easily be sent to all of the colleges on your application list.
- Express your gratitude. Now’d be a good time to mail “thank you” notes or E-cards to everyone who helped you in the application process: those who wrote letters of recommendation, your counselor who helped you “get your stuff together,” the family friend who made a contact on your behalf, or a teacher who helped you organize your thoughts for the essay. Getting a note from you now will send the message that you really appreciate what they did for you even though you don’t yet know the outcome.
- Prepare for disappointment. We know that over 80 percent of applicants get admitted to their first choice college. While this is high, it is not 100 percent, so there is the possibility that you will not be admitted to your first- (or even second-) choice institution. Prepare an emotional plan for how you will react if the news isn’t 100 percent good. Not so good: “I will be devastated and my life will be over” (though I have heard this on many occasions). Better: “I’ve been preparing for some rejections since the very beginning, which is why I submitted two dozen applications.”
- Make a list. Write down all the good things about your second choice and alternative campus(es). Keeping in mind all the good things they have to offer will put you in a much better frame of mind if your no. 1 doesn’t come through.
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