Decisions, Decisions: The Run to April 1

This Friday will mark the start of several weeks during which seniors will receive lots of admission decision news.  In the same way applicants spend a painstakingly significant amount of time crafting essays and revising extracurricular activity lists, admission professionals have worked tirelessly this winter to read, discuss, debate, and toil over application credentials.  They’ve gone to the mat for compelling (yet cuspish) students being discussed in committee, they’ve agreed, they’ve disagreed, they’ve voted and they’ve checked and rechecked final decisions. They are finally reaching the end of the road. Back-of-the-house operations teams are entering admission decisions into data management platforms; they are almost done.  Admitted student event invitations have been designed, tuition deposit directions have been revised, web portals in which admitted students will congregate for discussion have been created, and the thick envelopes have been stuffed.  The decision release process is a labor of love and details- and it is a privilege to do the work.


As colleges race to be first to each student’s mailbox (and increasingly, that mailbox is a of the email variety), students and families wait.  The mid-March anticipation of expected decision news floats around the senior locker area at our school like a layer of electricity.  So, is there a “right” way to receive decision news?  A best way?  Are there things a student can do to make the experience more positive, less anxiety-ridden?  The answer is yes.  First, breath, regularly- recognize that at this point you have done all you can to put your very best foot forward and you should celebrate that effort.  Second, if you know the date on which a school will release their decisions, be patient.  Find something to do with your time that is meaningful.  Invest in your classes, your activities, your relationships.  Regardless of the decision outcomes, all of those things and people will still be important parts of your life decision-day-plus-one.  The mentors, teammates, teachers and loved ones with whom you spend time will be those with whom you’ll celebrate and those with whom you’ll share disappointment (if there is disappointment to be experienced).  In the lead-up to receiving admission news, invest in them.  Then, when the big day arrives, find a private place in which to open the email or letter.  Give yourself space.  Space, and time to experience your emotions without the burden of managing the needs of your family members and friends.  The privacy will allow you the gift of having a genuine reaction.  Although most colleges are sensitive enough about time zones and timing not to send decision news during the school day, there are still occasions when that happens.  If you receive admission decision news while at school, WAIT TO OPEN IT.  WAIT TO OPEN IT.  As impossible as that may seem, it is the right thing to do.  The best thing for you and the sensitive thing to do for everyone around you.  Imagine that you get in to your first choice school.  A school to which several of your friends have also applied.  You click on the email which welcomes you to the class of 2018 and scream with delight- only to realize that the friend next to you didn’t get in.  Now imagine the same scenario except you are the friend.  Opening an admission decision at school can rob an applicant of the joy involved with receiving an offer, make it incredibly difficult to grieve appropriately if the news isn’t positive and create awkward dynamics between classmates.  Wait to open admission decisions at home.

Lastly, share your news.  Good or bad, the people who love and support you want to know.  Start with those closest to you and make your way through teachers, friends and advisers.  If you are excited and the news is exactly what you’ve dreamed of, wait to make it Facebook official till the people in your life who should hear the news first hand, have heard it directly from you.  Use the news as an opportunity to extend gratitude to those who have helped you accomplish your dream, and include the admission office from which you’ve heard.  An enthusiastic email of thanks is a nice change of pace for an admission professional who will likely spend many of his or her days following the decision release date counseling disappointed families who did not end up in the class.

If the news you receive isn’t what you had hoped and you find yourself denied or waitlisted, there are next steps.  Let us know the decision outcome and we can discuss how to move forward.  I’d also encourage you to read a wonderful piece by Mr. Parke Muth, a former member of the University of Virginia admission team entitled, Didn’t Get Into the College of Your Dreams? What can you do?

Lastly, and most importantly, when you get in to school, and you WILL get in, celebrate!  What an incredible moment this is for your life!  Think about the paths ahead, the opportunities, the new experiences.

The weeks just prior to April 1 are defining weeks for high school seniors.  They provide answers about the future and they will be weeks you’ll remember. Enjoy them.

Keep the College Counseling team posted regarding your news! We are, and have been, pulling for you.


Jennifer Scott, Senior Associate Director of College Counseling,
Norfolk Academy
Winter, 2014