College Applications Are Done, Now What?

Waiting for college decisions can be nerve-wracking, but there’s always something you can do to help your chance.
Don’t just wait. Take Action

By ALEX LOVELESS

Congratulations! You’ve just finished the grueling college application process and have earned a well-deserved break. Once you’ve confirmed that all the schools on your college list have received everything (teacher recommendations, score reports, applications, financial aid documents, scholarship essays, etc), you can take a little time to recuperate and just get away from college admissions-related stuff for a while. Out of sight, out of mind, and pure relaxation. Right?

The problem is that a lot of students are unable to relax at this point in the process, especially students that have yet to receive an acceptance. The idea that your future is now in the hands of the admissions officers takes away all your agency and this idea can be liberating to some. But to others, it can be terrifying. Is there really nothing left you can do between now and March? Is there something else I could be working on that I’m missing?

The short answer is yes, there’s always something you can do to give yourself an edge. Whether that time commitment is worth the slightest admissions edge is debatable, but for me, I best manage my anxiety when I’m staying busy and constantly working towards a solution. If you’re the same, here are some things you can work on between now and March.

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The Letter of Continued Interest (LOCI)

This is something that every applicant should be doing, regardless of personality. If you still want a shot at getting accepted to a university you were deferred from for early action or early decision, you need to submit a letter that shows that you still want to be considered for regular decision. You can read here for more details as to how to write an effective LOCI.

Additional Recommendations

In addition to accepting updated information in a LOCI, some schools will also allow for applicants to submit an additional letter of recommendation. But before asking someone to write one, make sure to carefully consider who it is and whether or not the letter they write would just repeat a lot of what your other recommendations have already said. For example, if you’ve already asked a math teacher for a recommendation, will another recommendation from an AP statistics teacher or even physics teacher really add very much information? Your math teacher has hopefully already established that you excel as a STEM student and have a great work ethic, so getting another school teacher to write a recommendation has too much overlap.

Instead, think of adults in your life that can give insight about you from a different perspective. If you play sports, you can consider a coach. If you’re heavily invested in music, maybe your band teacher. If you’re a leader in a club, perhaps your club advisor. Or if you’ve performed guided research or participated in a research program, your research mentor would be a great choice. I’d encourage you to think of anyone who can speak to you as a person beyond the classroom and someone that shows the depth of your interests in your particular Admissions Angle.

Also keep in mind that this new recommendation letter can also be used later for regular decision schools that decide to waitlist you in the spring.

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Work On Scholarship Applications

While this doesn’t really help in terms of admissions, it is still an important factor to consider for most families. If you’re from a middle class family that has enough income to avoid getting merit scholarships, but not enough to afford paying $60,000 / year for college, then you need to work extra hard to afford your education. Getting into the school of your dreams, but not being able to afford going there is one of the worst situations to be in, especially if it could have been avoided.

Unfortunately, the scholarship applications process is extremely complex, and the information about available scholarships and whether you qualify is so fragmented, that it’s tough to give good general advice on the subject. To start, there are a number of websites that aggregate scholarships, like FastWeb, Scholarships.com, Unigo, and studentaid.gov, among many others. After answering a handful of questions and creating a profile, they can match you with a number of scholarships that you qualify for. In addition, each university has various merit-based scholarships that you can apply for. Some deadlines are after their application deadline, so their might still be time to submit an application. However, a number of these deadlines are well before the deadline and it’s probably too late to apply. Overall, try to reuse any previous essays you’ve written for college applications and try to apply to as many as you can.

Waitlist Backup Plan

This is when students might start debating the efforts of more application work vs letting that senioritis sink in. I get it. You’ve already gone through the admissions gauntlet and want to enjoy your senior year. This item is for those who want to do everything they can to be prepared come March.

One possible outcome that a lot of students forget about (or willfully ignore) is the potential of getting waitlisted at a school come March. Getting waitlisted is obviously not a very promising sign – a very small percentage of students at top colleges get off the waitlist. But there are some who do! And these students don’t just magically get off the waitlist because they just “waited”. These kids continued working on their extracurricular activities or participated in another competition so that they actually would have something to update a university about if they got waitlisted.

So what would it take to impress a school with your continued activity? Honestly, having even just one competition, activity, or project that you are passionate about can be enough to tip the scales. Did you take the AMC 12 again and qualify for AIME this time around? Did you organize a new fundraising event for a local children’s hospital through your school club or nonprofit organization? Did you start learning a new coding language? Pick one of these projects to continue working on and “slack off” for the rest of your activities.  

The road that you’ve taken to get to this point was long and extremely stressful. It’s possibly one of the most difficult things you’ll do in your life, so it’s important to think about your mental health and reassess where you are in life. I will admit that some of the measures above are likely to change nothing in your college admissions outcome, so if you believe that you deserve to not think about it for a while, I completely understand. Just remember that again, there’s always something you can work on to prepare for what life throws at you.