Posted by Julia Wasson

Feb 18, 2015 6:32:00 AM

What to Do While You Wait

Once all of your college applications are in, the waiting game begins. What should you do now, besides checking your mailbox every day? First, you can take a few simple steps to increase your chances of acceptance. Then, you can begin to ease your upcoming transition to college life. Here are a few suggestions for how to spend your time while you wait.

Make sure all parts of your application have been submitted.

Check with your high school counselor and others involved in submitting parts of your application to make sure nothing has been overlooked. Transcripts, test scores, and letters of recommendation all need to arrive by the application deadline.

If you used the Common Application, check the recommenders page to see whether all your recommendations are in. If your school uses Naviance, check the status of transcripts and recommendations on your Naviance account. And check your ACT and/or College Board account online to make sure your ACT and/or SAT test scores have been sent.

Keep an eye on your inbox.

The colleges will communicate with you by email should they need additional information for your application. Check your email every day.

Plan a campus visit.

Visiting campus lets admissions officers know that you are truly interested in their school. Ask for a campus tour, meet with faculty members in your potential major, explore campus activities, talk with students, and participate in an interview with an admissions counselor. Level of interest is one factor that admissions officers consider when reviewing applications, so it is often a good idea to demonstrate that their school is among your top choices.

Think about how you will get involved on campus.

What sorts of extracurricular activities might you be interested in joining (or creating!) once you settle into life on campus? Find out about existing campus organizations by exploring the college’s website and social media pages and by talking to admissions counselors and current students. This is also an excellent topic of exploration for campus visits. Check out bulletin boards, the school newspaper, and other information outlets to learn about campus life. 

Connect with colleges online.

The admissions office often manages the college’s social media pages. Follow the schools you are interested in on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. Don’t ask about the status of your application via social media, but do ask any other relevant questions about programs of study, campus life, and so on. If the school just won an award or important competition, offer your congratulations. 

This is an opportunity to engage with the school community and get familiar with life on campus. As with all your activities online and off, behave in a mature manner that will reflect positively on you and your application.

CAUTION: Before following this tip, make sure your online persona is a positive one. If you need to clean up your online presence by deleting any photos or status updates that would reflect poorly on you, do so before you friend or follow any colleges or universities on social media.

Keep the admissions office up to date.

If you have new test scores or grades to report that will dramatically improve your standing, or if you win a major award or position of leadership, let colleges know. A report card that simply continues the trend of your usual academic performance does not warrant a call to the admissions office. Winning a national debate competition, however, does.

Don’t overdo it.

Admissions officers have mounds of applications to sort through — some of the more selective colleges receive tens of thousands of applications each year. You don’t want to make their jobs more difficult by staying in their hair all the time. Before contacting the admissions office after the application deadline, review the college’s admissions guidelines. If they discourage contact after the deadline, abide by their wishes.

Have the money talk.

Realistically discuss financial considerations and limitations with your parents or guardians. What costs are reasonable? How much can you and your family afford to contribute to your college education? How much debt is reasonable to assume? By having this discussion now, you will be ready to weigh the various financial packages that different colleges might offer. (Remember, most students receive some form of merit- or need-based aid — if they apply.)

Look to the future.

Continue to explore areas of interest for possible career paths. This will help you to further narrow your school choices once those acceptance letters start rolling in.

Obtain real-world experience in your career field(s) of interest.

Reach out to people working in careers you are interested in, and ask if you can “job shadow” them for a day. Many students choose their college major based on idealized assumptions about a profession rather than the everyday reality of work in a particular field. Spending a few days in a business office, courtroom, or science lab may save you from years of meaningless study in a field that you would not enjoy working in every day. Or the experience could lead you to a lifetime of work in a fulfilling career that you had not even realized was an option. 

You will be hearing back from your college choices before you know it. Until then, these suggestions should help increase your changes in the college admissions process, as well as prepare for the big decisions and transitions that lie ahead.

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