Seniors ‘21: Stay the Course

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Hello, Seniors:

You’ve officially moved into the final phase of your college research, and I want to congratulate you for your resiliency, creativity, and keen focus during this pandemic. The strength and independence you’ve relied on so heavily recently will serve you extremely well in college. With the season of college decisions upon us, now is the time for us to take one more look at your personal college search.

Balance and Perspective

Managing this month’s balance of good news and bad news is intense, but hang in there, because you will arrive at the journey’s end and identify the right college for you. Now is the time for sorting through a variety of results, both practically and emotionally. Those results will include a mix of offers of admission, spots on waitlists, and denials. Reviewing and accepting the news from colleges can be stressful, so it is best to process the information one result at a time — all while keeping your perspective focused on your overall outcome.

Think about the pros and cons of the institutions that are eager to have you on campus and bid farewell to the others. You have the time to make some thoughtful decisions before May 1 — that is, before National Decision Day — so set these next few weeks aside to reassess and review your priorities before making your final choice. Moving forward is the name of the game, so sit down with a trusted advisor — a parent, mentor, teacher, or college counselor — and review your college list and each school’s response to your application.

Making Choices

Choosing to attend one particular school may be an obvious choice for some students. The reality for many other students, however, is more complicated. If you have been waitlisted, stay calm and continue to engage your strengths, especially focus, flexibility, and positive action.

If you have been offered a spot on a college’s waitlist and have chosen to remain actively engaged in the wait pool, your college list will remain in an active state through the late spring and perhaps even into the summer months. COVID-19 has thrown college admissions into uncharted territory, and one result has been that applicants are seeing colleges use waitlists more extensively than ever before, and often for longer periods of time.

Many colleges will start admitting students from their waitlists earlier — even in April — and in much larger numbers than in past years. Summer 2021 admissions offices will remain active as colleges continue to build their freshmen class; as a result, prospective students may receive offers as late as the end of July. It is impossible to know if or when an opportunity will arise, so the best way forward to is think carefully, stay committed, and keep your college process in motion.

When colleges do extend an offer to a student from the waitlist or wait pool, some may require responses in five to ten days, while others may ask for a response within 24 or 48 hours. Given this, thinking through all the factors that go into making your final choice in advance is extremely helpful so that you can make the best decision for yourself with potentially very little notice and with not much time before a firm deadline.

Doing Your Research

Visiting campuses these days is not easy, which can complicate decision-making in regards to making your final college choice. This is yet another reason why it’s in your best interest to continue your research until you’ve made that final decision. Take some virtual tours, arrange to chat with current students, and register for the admitted student events mentioned in your acceptance letter.

Colleges now offer many types of virtual experiences designed to help prospective students during a time when showing up and being physically present may be impossible. With that said, if you are able to make a safe visit to campus, it is well worth the trip! Furthermore, accept any offers to chat with a professor in your potential major or spend an hour or two with other prospective students learning more about the four years ahead. Engaging with colleges in these ways will help you gauge your commitment to these schools and process your options.

For starters, formulate a plan. Decide whether or not you want to remain on the waitlist. If you decide to persist, you’ll want to send an email to the admissions office to thank them for their consideration and tell them that you are absolutely sure you are interested in attending. In your response, be sure to follow any specific instructions from the college outlined in their waitlist letter.

Moving forward. Revisit your priorities and review your current options to determine your first-choice college from among your admits. Narrow your list by prioritizing your interests. For example, if a tight-knit community is important to you, take a close look at class size and professor availability. You might want to consider the on-campus programs for internships, service, externships, and alumni network, since these may become more important to you as you move into your junior and senior years. Take inventory and see how your school choices stack up against your priorities and goals. Check details: for example, make sure there aren’t any conditions such as housing limitations that affect waitlist decisions.

Consider Finances. Evaluate your need for financial aid. Consider the cost of your next four years (or more) and the pros and cons of each financial aid package you’re offered.

Be proactive. Continue to review your college list with your parents.Engage your high school counselor for support; in many cases, they may contact the college admissions rep with spring semester grades, awards, or any other recent information to supplement your application. Keep your grades strong, as your updated transcript may be evaluated as part of a college’s decision about which students to admit from the waitlist. Whether you forward grades, awards, or any information about your achievements, or your college counselor does so, doing this in a timely fashion is an essential part of your waitlist strategy.

Finally …

You are well on your way to National Decision Day. When you have weighed your options and know what is going to be best for you, commit. Forward your deposit to your school (and don’t forget to check the deadline for submitting your deposit!) and then let your friends, family, and school community know where you will be headed next fall. Celebrate! Then, if you do receive an offer from the wait pool of your dream school, be ready to review your research and make the best decision for you!

Last reminders: don’t forget to send the other colleges on your list a kind letter to decline your attendance to their institution. Once more, keep your grades up and finish senior year strong. Your year-end grades will indeed be reviewed, and your confirmed admittance will depend on the consistency and strength of your entire academic record.

If you need help with a specific action plan to respond to a school’s invitation to its waitlist, contact us. We can help.

Happy Graduation!

Maureen Delaney

Educational Counselor

As a Counselor in Educational Planning, Maureen Delaney considers the strengths and interests of students and helps them to achieve their academic and personal goals. As the former Director of College Guidance at independent schools in both the Washington DC area and Manhattan, Maureen uses her deep experience to establish authentic connections both to students planning for college and those ad...

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