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by Liz Jackson


Seniors and parents of seniors, congratulations on making it past November 1, the early admission deadline for most colleges!  For most colleges with November 1 deadlines, you can expect to hear back about whether you were admitted, deferred, or denied by mid-December–though some colleges don’t notify candidates for admission until well into second semester (UW-Madison, Michigan, UNC, for example).  We are often asked: “What should I do while I wait for my colleges to respond?”  Part of the answer is to take a breather!  You’ve worked hard to be ready to submit applications by this fall and you deserve to rest on your laurels for a little while.  BUT, there are some essential tasks you shouldn’t ignore.  Here’s what I recommend you do while waiting to hear back from your early admission colleges:

  1. First, and perhaps most important is to check up on your application status at all your early colleges.  Shortly after you submit your applications, you should receive an email confirmation indicating that your application was received. In that email, you will also receive instructions for how to log into an applicant portal, where you can check on the status of your application and eventually be notified of your admission decision. It is crucial that you login to these portals and keep track of any additional information the colleges are requesting. Some colleges, for example, require applicants to submit a “Student-Reported Academic Record” (SRAR) after applying. Logging into your portal is how you can verify that your colleges have all the information they need to evaluate your application and to know about any necessary next steps in the application process! Some colleges also ask that you submit your standardized test scores or other materials through these portals, so it is essential that you follow the instructions to set them up and check them periodically. 
  2.  Provide relevant updates to admission offices:  Sometimes, as the end of the first quarter of the year comes to a close, or the fall sports season ends, or you find out that you got a starring role in the winter musical, you may wonder whether new information can be added to a submitted application.  The answer is YES!  If something important comes up in your life in between now and when you get your admission decision, it is perfectly appropriate and even advantageous to add that new information into your application portal at your colleges, or even to send an email to the admissions offices at the colleges to let them know your good news.  This is a good way to continue demonstrating interest at your colleges and show them that you remain engaged in your courses and extracurriculars as a senior, and remain interested in their college!
  3. Start on essay writing for regular decision:  I hate to say it, since essay writing is probably the LAST thing you want to do right now.  But, it’s also really important to get started on writing the supplement essays for your regular decision colleges around or before Thanksgiving.  Certainly, if you applied to a college Early Decision, or even if you have some early colleges you are really excited about, it could be that you ultimately end up not needing these essays, if you don’t end up applying to any or many regular decision schools. However, it is crucial that you not wait until mid-December to begin writing your essays for your regular decision colleges. As you can imagine, mid-December is a busy time with final exams and family travel or holiday preparations. In my nearly fifteen years of college counseling, I have never had a student who produced their best essay writing work in late December.  Having strong essays that you end up not submitting is a much better problem than having to scramble to write essays in a panic at the end of the year!
  4. Get in the right headspace:  Finally, I recommend that, between now and when you hear back from your colleges, you do some reflection on this college admission process and what it means for you. Of course, it is an important transition point in your life, but remember that the decisions that come back from colleges are not a referendum on you as an individual or even as a student.  Colleges aim to enroll diverse groups of students who satisfy institutional priorities, and every year, colleges have to deny very qualified applicants. And every year, most students experience some happy news and some not-so-happy news from the colleges where they applied.  If you can, try to put your college applications in perspective and remember that, regardless of the outcomes you see in December or onward, you are still you, and you are going to have great experiences after high school if you remain open to growth and new ideas. 


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