If this is your senior year, February is about when you start hearing back from all the colleges you’ve been applying to this year. Understanding what these letters from colleges mean can help you make an easier transition into your freshman year.
If you’re accepted into a college, you usually get a big package from them. This can sometimes include university memorabilia, but will definitely include information about the school, how you can register for orientation, signing up for housing, and so on. At first glance it might seem like a lot of information but it is all very important so make sure to pay attention. Most notably, many colleges require you to accept your place there by a certain date. If you are still waiting to hear from other colleges, you are under no obligation to respond immediately. Make sure you write this date down on your calendar however, because if you don’t respond by then you will often lose your spot.
If you’re rejected from a college, it’s tempting to be devastated. While it is okay to be upset, don’t take it too hard. Sometimes this just means you and the college are not a good fit together, and you should look at this as an opportunity to find a college that more closely matches what you are interested in. Look at the college carefully and think about what inspired you to apply, and use that information to help narrow down other colleges that you’re thinking of applying to. If the college provided information about why specifically they didn’t choose your application, use that to shape your application for the future.
A third option you will receive from a college is a wait list notice. This means that the college is interested in you, but might not have any more available spaces. Remember we talked about that date you have to let colleges know if you accept your place by? This is how people move up the waitlist; as people turn down their spots, people on the wait list are offered the position. You should plan, however, to attend a different college. Accept your place, and follow their instructions to begin planning to attend for your freshman year. If your wait-listed college ends up accepting you, you can decide to attend there instead. This way, you have a secured place and aren’t left in the lurch if you don’t get accepted. There are many ways to improve your chances on the wait list as well. Follow the instructions in your letter; contact the university to find out where you are on the list; and update them on major changes in your academic status, such as improved test scores, additional classes, and financial aid needs. Contact an admissions counselor at the school and ask for advice. They help students all the time, so they are well-equipped to answer any of your questions.
The last question that often plagues high school seniors is the inevitable “What If?” questions. What if your friends all get accepted to your top university and you don’t? In your senior year, this can seem devastating. You now face the possibility of having to find a whole new group of friends, going to a new place by yourself, and losing contact with your old friends. Going to a different school doesn’t have to be a death sentence for your friendship. Technology has progressed to the point where you can see your friends across the country through Skype or Facetime; we have text messaging, instant messaging, even apps that connect you instantly! While it will take a bit more work, your friendship can grow even stronger if you apply the effort.
The college application process is the first step toward the next important part of your life. With careful planning, you can make the right decisions for you without becoming totally overwhelmed. Remember that your parents, guidance counselors, university admissions counselors, and college recruiters are all there to help you. Make sure you take full advantage of these resources by asking as many questions as you need answered. You can do this!