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College Timeline: Waiting for and Receiving Decision Letters

Gathering all the components and sending out all your college applications is a daunting process, but the good news is that once that step is completed, most of the leg-work of your pre-college timeline is finished. But the waiting game that comes next brings its own unique challenges and hurdles you may not have anticipated. In this second phase of your application process, you’ll spend some time waiting for the schools you applied to to make their decisions and send their letters. During this time, it’s important to remember a few things to make the experience as stress-free as possible.
Keep Careful Records

Don’t leave anything to chance with your college applications. As your application comes into the admissions office, you, unfortunately, are likely a faceless collection of papers and just one of hundreds or thousands of applicants. Persuading the office to make exceptions for you to fix errors with your application is difficult at that juncture, so be sure your application was sent with all its parts and pieces and keep a detailed list indicating the steps you took, application fee payments as well as any other fees (such as transcript request fees), dates you sent any materials, and any other pertinent information. In many cases, admissions offices send confirmations to applicants, indicating they have received your application or if any other pieces are required; keep an eye on your mailbox and email inbox for these receipts. Once you can be sure you have taken every necessary step, it will be much easier to play the waiting game without being compelled to call the admissions office every day just to, you know, make sure they got everything!

Allow Yourself to Relax

Depending on the method of admission at the school (whether they offer rolling admission or firm cut-off and decision dates), you may end up waiting a few weeks to hear anything at all. As most application deadlines are around the beginning of March, that should serve as your personal deadline for your college application process. While you wait, you may be tempted to revisit your application pieces by reviewing your personal essay or mentally re-writing your resume. There’s nothing more you can do at this point, and searching for errors or imperfections is a sure way to cause unnecessary stress and worry. For some, the waiting is the hardest part. Try your best to relax and remind yourself of your academic success and accomplishments instead of focusing on everything that might go wrong.

You can expect colleges to take a few weeks to respond with a decision, whether it be an acceptance or a rejection, as letters tend to go out in bulk on a timeline set by the college. Bear this in mind as the letters begin to arrive and don’t panic if a letter hits your mailbox sooner than you expect it to: this does not mean you didn’t get accepted! Another thing to keep in mind is that the size of the envelope means little these days. Old movies have acceptances arriving in large folders and rejections in small envelopes; this typically does not happen anymore.

Once you do begin receiving letters, remember to read them carefully to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding. Follow any instructions given to you in the letter, which may include corresponding with an admissions office employee or visiting the school’s website for additional information. Remember to avoid making any firm decisions in haste before all your letters have arrived and all your options are clear. Keep your decision letters in a safe place and record their receipt on your checklist.

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