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Hurry Up and Wait for College Admissions!

Original post made by Doing College, another community, on Dec 26, 2011

Dear Dr. LaScala,

All of my son’s college applications now are submitted. He is on tenterhooks about the outcome of his applications, and I have to admit to some trepidation of my own. Any advice about what to do while he waits?

~On Tenterhooks in Danville

Dear On Tenterhooks,

Ouch! That sounds painful! Somehow the admission frenzy has managed to scare our kids—even those at the top of the academic ladder—into thinking that their chances of getting into college are slim and getting slimmer each year. Instead of indulging in needless worry and anxiety, there are some constructive things seniors in high school can do while they wait to learn what their final college options are:

• First and foremost, relax and enjoy your senior year and last few months living at home. Although it may seem as though you can’t wait to live on your own, this final year is memorable and precious. It will be gone in a flash. Make it count in meaningful ways.

• Continue to be actively engaged in doing your best academic work. This is critical because colleges review final transcripts to be certain no courses were dropped and grades did not plummet. If something does change for the better (like a scholarship is awarded) or for the worse (like a drop in grades due to illness), be proactive and communicate the news directly to the colleges.

• Visit schools you were not able to see yet. Don’t wait for the responses to visit these campuses. The decision deadline, May 1st, arrives soon after admission decisions—so be prepared. If academic or financial concerns make visiting impossible, continue to familiarize yourself with colleges in other ways. Read blogs, examine course catalogues, review housing considerations, email faculty, students and undergraduate admission counselors in order to make comparisons that will help you make an informed decision.

The Wait-List

Colleges build a waiting list to ensure full freshman classes, since not all accepted students will enroll. This system is hard on students and their parents. If you get a wait list notice, decide whether you really want to attend the school before you agree to remain on the list. If you are accepted, you will only have a few days to decide. Also, investigate conditions attached to being wait-listed; you can lose priority housing or financial aid options. Some schools rank waiting lists. If you can learn where you place on the wait-list, you will be a better position to examine your options. You should also ask the college about the number of students that have been accepted from the waitlist over the past few cycles. All of this information is important to examine and consider, since schools will not decide who will be admitted off the wait list until the May 1st national decision deadline has passed. Remember, you will need to prepare to attend another college by sending in a deposit to a school that has offered you admission. In many cases, if you are admitted off a wait-list, you will forfeit this deposit.

Finally, it is most important to have confidence in yourself. Research shows that 8 out of 10 students get in to their first or second choice school. You will get through college admission and develop maturity and resilience as a result. Remember, your life is much bigger than an acceptance or rejection letter from a particular college.

Elizabeth LaScala Ph.D. guides college, transfer and graduate school applicants through the complex world of admissions. She develops best match college lists, offers personalized interview and essay coaching, and tools and strategies to help students tackle each step of the admissions process with confidence and success. Elizabeth helps students from all backgrounds to maximize merit and financial aid awards. Visit; Call (925) 891-4491 or email at


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