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10 Tips for Being Productive and Managing Stress While Awaiting College Decisions

With hours of additional free time on your hands, it can be challenging to know how to best use this time productively while also managing your nerves as you wait for college decisions.

Congratulations on submitting all of your college applications! Now that you have spent the last few months making your applications as strong as possible, you may be wondering what to do as you await your admissions decisions. With hours of additional free time on your hands, it can be challenging to know how to best use this time productively while also managing your nerves as you wait for college decisions.

However, with the right plan of action, you can make these months count while also taking time for yourself! Here are 10 tips to help you do just that:

1. Create your application portals.

After submitting your applications, you will receive emails asking you to set up portals for each of your schools. Create these accounts right away and keep a document with links to each portal and your login information. Check your portals regularly, as this is primarily how your schools will communicate application updates to you. The portals will also show which materials (transcripts, letters of recommendation, and test scores) each school has received and which are still missing. Additionally, most universities require you to upload a midyear report documenting your first semester grades, so make sure to upload yours as soon as possible! If a university has not yet received any materials you have submitted, contact their admissions office.

2. Write thank you notes.

A handwritten card is one of the most thoughtful and personal ways to say thank you and express your appreciation for a teacher or other recommender. When writing thank-you notes, start from scratch and think specifically about what you appreciate about that recommender, their support during your college application process, and their role in your high school career. In the card, you can thank your teacher for the time and energy they invested in writing a letter to support your application. Go beyond saying they are the best teacher in the world, and write a note of personal nature. You can write about fond memories and stand-out events you’ve shared with the teacher in or outside of their class. Maybe you’ll write about the volunteer group you both partake in, a life lesson they’ve taught you, or a literary read that you’ve discussed at length. Keep it light, but ensure the note demonstrates genuine appreciation for your recommender’s efforts.

This note does not necessarily need to be written with pen and paper. You may choose to mail your note to your recommender or send it as an email. Ultimately, you have the freedom to improvise the logistics—just make sure your note reaches your recommender.

3. Prepare for interviews.

As your application materials circulate through the review process, you may hear back from colleges that either highly encourage or require applicants to sit for interviews, whether with an admissions representative on campus or with an alumnus in the applicant’s local area. However, some schools, such as Swarthmore College, will expect you to contact them to set up an interview. In the latter case, simply contact the school’s admissions office or register on the school’s website if there’s an option to do so.

An interview is another opportunity to show what you have to offer while taking the time to ask questions about the school. While it tends to be a somewhat informal conversation between yourself and the university representative, preparation is imperative. Take this time to research the schools that conduct interviews, revisit your supplemental essays, and prepare to ask meaningful questions to your interviewer. For some tips and tricks on acing the interview, read through our comprehensive guide on the college admissions interview process.

4. Write letters of continued interest.

If you’ve been waitlisted or deferred, letters of continued interest let schools know that you’re still interested in attending. These letters should be short and to the point, and should be sent soon after receiving the deferral or waitlist notice. Use this letter as an opportunity to provide updates on your academic performance, extracurricular activities, leadership positions, and/or awards. Make sure to avoid rewriting supplemental essays, straying off topic, or sending multiple letters of continued interest—this effort should be directed at only your top school(s). Check out our complete guide to writing a letter of continued interest here.

5. Pursue activities that have been on the back burner.

With college applications behind you, now is the time to get back to the myriad hobbies and interests that enriched your life outside of the classroom throughout these past four years. For example, if you serve as the captain of a sports team, reinvest in your teammates by hosting a team bonding night or preparing encouraging posters to display at an upcoming match. Now that the stress of maintaining perfect grades and preparing for standardized tests is over, reading for pleasure is also a great option, as many busy, high-achieving students have not had the bandwidth to do this in years. Whatever it is, the idea is to focus anxious energy in a productive and enjoyable way and to rediscover the things you love without the nagging stress of completing college applications.

6. Gain some perspective.

While fraught students may not always want to hear it, there’s a lot to be said for the power of positivity and gratitude, particularly in warding off stress over events that are outside of one’s control. Applicants might consider gratitude journaling, where they write down one or two things at the beginning or end of each day that they are thankful for. Parents can do their part by encouraging family members to discuss the good things in their lives during meal times or other moments throughout the day. It’s worth noting that not everyone has the opportunity to pursue higher education, and those who do have the opportunity have a lot to be grateful for, regardless of the outcome.

7. Avoid catastrophizing and other unhelpful ways of thinking.

It’s tempting for applicants to get caught in a spiral of negative thinking: What if I’m not admitted to my school of choice, and the entire rest of my life suffers as a result? The good thing about catastrophizing is that it’s rarely grounded in logic, meaning that it’s easy to poke holes in these kinds of assumptions and projections. If you’re prone to such anxiety-induced speculation, try to critically consider the faulty reasoning that leads to these conclusions. Luckily, there are many ways to lead a successful and fulfilling life, and none of them mandate that a person attend X or Y school.

8. Keep your grades up.

While submitting your college applications relinquishes some of the pressure on you, it shouldn’t mean that you stop putting effort into your academics. Colleges will look at your spring semester grades, and the possibility of revoking acceptances does exist, particularly should students report drastic changes in grades. In short, schools reserve the right to rescind acceptances based on declines in academic performance, so make sure to keep your grades up.

9. Apply for scholarships.

With college applications recently completed, you can also direct your efforts into applying for scholarships. Many scholarship applications require essays and information similar to what you submitted in your college application, so beginning to work on scholarship applications shortly after submitting college applications will ensure that all of your important achievements are fresh in your mind as you compile your resources. Many significant scholarships have January deadlines, so be sure to take initiative and create a schedule for yourself so that you stay on track and submit your materials on time. For online hubs for scholarships and scholarship application deadlines, check out or!

10. Plan your summer.

Finally, start planning for summer! Although the summer after your senior year of high school won’t be included in your college application, participating in courses, programs, or internships will allow you to explore your interests. For example, Google offers the Computer Science Summer Institute for rising college first-years. If you aren’t sure how you want to spend your summer, take a look at our guide to planning your summer activities!

While it might feel like the passing of time has slowed to an unbearable pace, students and their parents will get answers soon—but the aforementioned tips can help ease some of the anxiety and help you direct your energy into more productive and enjoyable pursuits. With these tips in mind, celebrate your time by enjoying your last semester of high school and the coming summer as much as possible. You’ve made it this far, so finish strong. We wish you the best of luck!



Command Education’s experts take the guesswork out of the college admissions process.

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