I wish I could say I was a patient person, but the truth is, like everyone else in our culture of instant gratification, I want that YouTube unboxing video to load in seconds, my Chinese food to arrive 10 minutes after I order it and the results of my hard work to pay off immediately (yay blogging!). So when my students come to me brandishing college admission wait-list letters and expressions of frustration, I truly understand their pain.
“I feel you,” I say to them while peeking out the window for the 40th time to check on the arrival of my Amazon Prime order. “Waiting sucks.”
But there is a way to play the college admissions waiting game that will make you feel more in control of your own destiny, and help you maintain your sanity as the days drag by.
Do something NOW.
Part of what is so maddening about waiting for anything – and college admissions-related notifications in particular – is the feeling that you are both static and powerless. You are neither of those things.
Send out a carefully-crafted wait-list letter to the admissions department at your target school and do it ASAP. Your note should affirm your sincere interest in a school while providing admissions with a summary of your most recent events and accomplishments. Detail a few very specific reasons you believe you are a good fit for the school and update admissions on relevant personal developments like boosts in your GPA, awards and special projects. Wait-list letters are empowering in that they allow you to make a proactive move towards your success. And since many schools fill their waitlist spots as students decline their offers, the timing of your note can actually matter a lot.
Take control of your independence.
You are your own best advocate. You are also an adult. Prove that you can handle all college responsibilities, big and small, by taking up your cause yourself instead of asking a parent or guidance counselor to reach out on your behalf. Progress in the application process doesn’t always have to be measured in admission. You can learn to feel good about the steps you take towards maturity and self-sufficiency along the way and these small highs can help you forget – at least for a moment – about the wait ahead.
I know – I said I would make the waiting go away. Some students relegated to the wait list may want to consider a gap year or semester - taking time out of the classroom. A gap should not focus on the process of reapplying but rather exploring skills that might make you better prepared for college, such as a job or internship or community service for a cause that expands your world experience. This is an option to discuss with your guidance counselor and parents since it could affect important details like financial aid. However, some schools now encourage gap years or first semester or offer their own gap programs.
So you didn't get into your dream school. Accept your position on the wait list, send out your letter to admissions, cross your fingers. And then look to the schools that are pining for your attendance. Visit their websites again and check out the programs they offer to see how well-aligned they are with your interests. Take a trip to campus and get a sense of what it would really be like to immerse yourself in these environments. Chances are you will notice things about your second- and even third- or fourth-choice schools that truly excite you. The wait-list game is long and tedious and not always worth playing.