The days of stressing over your SAT exams, how to send over your transcript and standardized test scores, writing and editing your common app essay for the 56th time, and crafting endless supplement essays are over. The application process is a marathon and you’ve lived to tell the story. Better yet, you’ve lived to tell others of your acceptances, and where you have decided to go. Congrats! But wait? What on earth do you say now?

Just as the college application process itself can bring out mixed emotions of excitement, stress, fear, hope, and every emotion in between, so to can navigating the aftermath of your acceptances and sharing with others the decision of where you will attend next year. Below are some tips on managing your emotions and how to have those conversations with friends, classmates, peers, and family:

1. First take a moment to let it sink in.
Breathe in a deep, deep breath and give yourself a pat on the back. A hug. Scream out your window. Throw yourself a solo dance party. Whatever you need, you deserve it. Applying to college is a lot of work, so be proud of yourself for giving it your best. So often we move through life at a fast pace and don’t allow ourselves the space and time to truly treasure important moments and milestones in our life. Making your college decision is one of those, we promise. Obviously you’ll be excited (or nervous) to share this news with other people, but make sure to also spend time with yourself first so you can fully process it and feel the experience of the emotions that come with it on your own first.

2. Share your school choice with pride.
a. Own the decision you have made (we can imagine) quite thoughtfully. You don’t have to justify your decision to attend a school far from home, that you chose Princeton when your grandfather wanted you to choose Yale, or that you’re attending an elite university in the first place. Give yourself permission to confidently share and humbly celebrate your choice! Stand up straight, square your shoulders, look people in the eyes, and say “I’ve decided to go _______”.

b. If you did not get accepted to the school(s) of your dreams, it’s going to be okay. It may be hard to process at first, but don’t beat yourself up about it. Let it fuel you forward. See the schools you did get into as a necessary stepping stone: a place where you can work extremely hard in the classroom, engage heavily on campus, and eventually transfer and get accepted to the school(s) that you initially did not get into.

3. Ignore the negative feedback and send love to your haters.
It might be likely that you are afraid of the negative reactions, most likely in the form of jealousy or judgement, when you do share the school of your choice, and that is understandable.

a. If you receive some negativity, openly explain and share what you like about the school and how excited you are. You’ve chosen to attend the school for you anyway and not based on how others are going to perceive your decision. If you’re going to a school that someone hasn’t heard of or a school that others don’t regard as highly as you do, see it as an opportunity to tell them more about the school and a platform to share your reasons for why you think it’s the perfect and right fit for you. Don’t feel the need to be defensive about it, just be real and honest, and trust that you know the best place for the next years of your life.

b. It’s tough to navigate conversations when you’ve chosen to go to the elite university that everyone knows about and wanted to get into themselves. Some of your peers may poke fun at you attending Harvard or may think that you must have some self-righteous attitude that you are better than other people. Remember that you’ve worked really hard and long for this. Be honest about why you are choosing your school in the first place. Understand that people who are secure in their own acceptances and decisions, and truly care about you, will be able to be happy for you. Share your decision with these people and let any negative comments roll off your shoulders.

4. Know that your school choice does not define you nor does it define others.
After you take a moment to process your choice, share it with pride, and then navigate the spectrum of feedback, from the tears of joy from your grandma who is over the moon that you are attending a college when she never did to the overly unsupportive comments from a peer, know that this choice does not define you. Your journey is just beginning. Getting into college is less about the outcome of getting accepted and more about who you’ve each become through the process of getting in: the brilliant, confident, inspiring, community contributing, resilient, and grounded person. What defines you moving forward will be less about the fact that admissions gave a green light to your application and more about how you make the most of your experience, how you engage with and contribute to the school you’ve chosen, and how you grow and evolve along the way to find your passions and use your skills and education after graduation to make the world a better place. Buckle up kids, it’s going to be a good one.

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