We are about to go through one of the more emotional moments in the admissions process. In the days building up to the final release of early decision notices on December 15th, we’ll experience collectively the simultaneous surge of four strong emotions: anticipation, elation, disappointment and confusion. This will be the first turn in a series of turns that will continue until all admissions notifications are out in April.
This is my advice:
The notification process stretches from December through the end of March. There are weeks where little news goes out, and there are days where multiple colleges announce their decisions at once.
Dec 15th – most early decisions are released
Dec - Feb – early action decisions are released
Dec-Mar – all other admissions decisions are released
April – colleges hold spring welcome days for admitted students
May 1st – deadline for accepting admission to one of your colleges
May-June – you may be taken off a waitlist and admitted
July-Aug – preparation for the college semester begins
In a letter from the college, you will learn that you have been admitted, provisionally admitted, waitlisted, deferred or rejected. Here is the key:
Admitted is a straightforward “yes, we want you!”
Deferred means that the college is still interested in you and will review your application again with the regular decision applicant pool. It is likely that they will review your senior fall transcript. You may not hear back again from the college until mid to late March.
Provisionally admitted means that you will be admitted as long as you meet a final requirement. Most often you are asked to keep up your overall GPA or show that you’ve passed or improved a grade in a particular course. If you are deferred, you will want to follow all instructions carefully.
If you are waitlisted, then you have not been admitted for now, but the college is interested in you and may admit you at a later date. Waitlisting is quite common. If you are waitlisted, you will want to follow all instructions carefully.
Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster
Receiving this news and hearing about everyone else's news can feel overwhelming. So look ahead and devise a plan for opening letters or checking your status on the online admissions portal. Here are my ideas:
1. Timing. Consider being strategic about choosing a time to look up admission results. If you feel you might be emotionally thrown off by admissions news, then get your homework or exam preparation out of the way first. Even if you are admitted to your early decision school, you may not be admitted to your early action schools. Don't be surprised if the rejection despite admission mix upsets or confuses you.
2. Make room for what you feel. Make time to be sad. And make time to have fun and let go of your emotions. Remember that you are not alone. The entire world is sharing in this process with you. Everyone is receiving good and bad news.
3. To share or not to share? Think about how you want to share information about your news with your peers. You can wait and tell people at the end of the process after you accept admission somewhere or you can share all of your updates every month, or anything in between. Do what is most comfortable for you. Please contact me if you want to discuss this.
4. Plan fun. The emotional ups and downs can take a toll. Find a way to reset! Most people reset with a new activity, extended exercise, creative play (yes, baking counts), a great snack or meal, time with friends, a funny video or movie. My personal favorite is going to a place I've never visited or trying a new food. Life is filled with these stressful moments, so learning to reset will help you on the road ahead.
5. Watch your thinking. We humans let our thinking get the best of us. Try not to put extra pressure on yourself by creating stories in your head.
If at any time, you need to talk or review anything, or if you don't understand the results, please contact me. I'm always happy to see you in my office, get coffee, talk by phone, or text. I'm here the whole time until this is over.
Each year more and more small to medium-sized colleges are integrating an interview into the college application process. In some cases, colleges are replacing their supplement essays with an interview. That’s a big YES! for many students for whom the admissions essays present a bottleneck to self-expression.
Interviewing is an art. It is an art in staying focused and sharing. It is an art in learning about how you can best act yourself. Interviewing builds self-esteem and provides experience in the life-long art of being interesting. But it takes time to learn how to interview naturally. So as you enter the world of interviews, have patience with yourself. This is a first step. Ready for some tips? Let’s go!
1. PREPARE. Absolutely! Always go into an interview well informed. Research the background of the person who will interview you. Go in well versed in your interest in the college. Know the mission and the values of the college and how they align with your own. Come up with good questions that will allow you to create a connection with the interviewer. Do a mock interview to practice your skills. Find something dressy to wear that feels comfortable: think brunch with your aunt and uncle.
2. USE A 3 x 3. When I applied for my first tenure track academic job, I had 25 interviews. For each job I created a worksheet which allowed me to field any type of question. I answer almost every question that came up by connecting it to my own strengths. I could then back up my response with an anecdote or story about that particular strength. And finally, I could say how this strength or interest had led me to the college. This is an abbreviated version of what my 3 X 3 looked like:
3. BE A GREAT LISTENER. Listening is key to good communication. Good listeners make excellent collaborators and teammates. Being a good listener requires focus. The key to great listening is to hear everything that is being said without getting caught up in your own thoughts. Try to put all of your attention on the person speaking. Don’t interrupt. Wait until the interviewer has finished asking a question before trying to jump in with an answer.
4. SHOW YOU HAVE A TEACHABLE NATURE. It’s important to always want to learn and never become complacent with or arrogant about the knowledge you have. It shows people that you’re open to their ideas, okay with constructive feedback, willing to do things differently or ask for help.
5. BE TRUE TO YOURSELF. Confident interviewees know and express their values and interests. Don’t hold back—be yourself and share who you really are. Steer the conversation toward your strengths: about how well you worked with your teammates, how close you were with your teacher, or what values you prioritize on the high school campus. This is where your 3 x 3 comes in handy.
6. SHARE YOUR INSPIRATION. Also, if you’ve taken any classes, read any great books or had a meaningful conversation lately, mention what you learned and its application to who you are and what you enjoy doing, or what you imagine for yourself in the future.
Learn something new this week that is related to your academic interests. Watch an educational video or read an article. Practice sharing what you learned with others. This is also a great way to cement the learning.
7. WRITE A THANK YOU NOTE. This couldn’t be more important. Within 24 hours, send your interviewer an email or send a handwritten note. Thank your interviewer for the time and effort it took to meet you. Comment on some aspect of the interview that you enjoyed. Express renewed interest about attending the college. Keep it short and to the point.
And now for the Thanksgiving part. All of these tips will help you to connect better with your loved ones and with people you are meeting for the first time. Try out a tip or to at your family gathering and see what difference it makes.
Felicia Fahey PhD
Felicia is a comprehensive educational consultant. She works with college bound students of all ages close to home, across the country and around the globe.