The moment is finally here. Your cursor hovers above that Submit button. You’ve double and triple checked, you’ve made sure everything’s ready, you’ve taken out that part in your resume where you wrote, “BLAH BLAH BLAH ADD DESCRIPTION LATER.” So you hit Submit, and it’s all over. Or is it?
What exactly happens once your application is sent in? It’s easy to think that you should just wait around until you get the email telling you your fate in a few months, but the truth is that there’s more you can do, even right now.
Number one: Make sure everything’s sent in! Tie up loose ends by ensuring the application went through and that you got a confirmation, check to see whether you sent a thank you note to your interviewer and people who wrote your recommendation letters, and make sure your SAT or ACT scores have been successfully sent in.
Good? In that case, take some time for yourself. Take a break, watch TV, do yoga, release the tension in your shoulders, lie down, drink some water, be healthy. The college process is so full of stress that you might have even stopped noticing how much it was affecting you. Now is a great time to shake all of that off — you’re done! (For a little.)
If you just applied Early, this break will, unfortunately, be a little bit short-lived. You now have two months to apply to the rest of your colleges, so best to start on that and make sure that you’re ready to go regardless of what happens with your early applications.
We’ve covered what you should do once you press send — what’s happening to your college application? What goes on after the application fairy sets it down on the desk of admissions officers at the school it’s sent to?
The exact process varies depending on the college, but generally, a primary reader will begin by evaluating your test scores, your transcript, your essays, extracurriculars, awards, interviews, and whatever other application miscellany you’ve sent in. From here, typically a numerical rating system is employed. Different facets of your application are given a score on some scale (whether that be from 1 to 10, 1 to 8, etc.) If your composite score is above a certain threshold, you will be automatically admitted to the school, and no further action is taken. If you are below a certain threshold, you will likely be rejected outright. If you fall somewhere in the middle–as the vast majority of applicants do–then you’ll go to committee, where a number of admissions officers will discuss your candidacy before determining whether you’ll land in the accept, reject, defer, or waitlist pile. Note that schools use slightly different variations on this (i.e. some institutions rely on two primary readers instead of just one), but the general format is the same at most top-tier schools.
Then, on the pre-set day (anywhere from a month and a half to several months after applying), you’ll get an email telling you the status of your application. It might not be exactly what you hoped for, but that’s okay. As long as you did your best on the application process, there’s not much else you can control about the way colleges decide or what they’re looking for.
Think of the archer. She can practice, drill, work on materials for her bow, and aim as perfectly as possible — but if there’s wind, or if the arrow is crooked, or if a million other things happen, it might not be a perfect bullseye. And that’s okay. All you can control is your application. The rest of it is about acceptance.