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9 Things to Do While Waiting for College Decisions

A young woman with brown hair stands on a subway platform. The subway car moves in a blur in front of her.

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

Congratulations! You are finished with one of the hardest processes high school seniors have to go through.

Whether your college application process included grueling internal reflection, quick bursts of inspiration, brain maps, or even scatterbrained free-writing, you did it and are about to embark on—arguably—the hardest part of the whole process: the wait.

If you were anything like me after submitting your applications, you are in for a lot of “what ifs” and “should I haves.” While these intrusive thoughts may loom over you, try to remember you did the best you could and made it through an extremely tough process.

You are a forward-thinking, quick-witted, individual who will end up in the best place for you next year. Nonetheless, self-mantras and changes in perspective can only do so much to assuage the nerves that come with waiting.

Here is a list of activities and tasks to help that time pass faster.

1. Write thank-you letters

Thank the team that helped you! Whether it was recommendation letters, supplements advice, or writing advice, teachers and other people who led clubs you were part of, or even the owner and waitstaff you spent a lot of time writing in, sending them a little card saying how much it means to you goes a long way.

A card can serve as a little memento for them to keep when you go off and do great things, plus it can strengthen relationships.

2. Check up on school work

Senioritis is a real and serious thing that can have some rough consequences if not monitored well. Don’t forget you are still a student and you still need to graduate!

Checking in with your teachers to make sure you did not miss anything takes a few minutes and can avoid a sour surprise in the future. If you are behind or missing some assignments, try to catch up and make up any missing work.

Motivation to get things done can drastically decrease after submitting applications (trust me, I’ve been there), so try not to get any more behind and do something about it while it is manageable.

3. Apply for financial aid

College only gets more and more expensive each year so take proactive steps to make sure you and your family can afford it comfortably. Most families qualify for financial aid, so take advantage of it! Even if you do not think your family will qualify, give it a try.

Most financial aid applications and software allow you to explain your family’s financial situation so they can have a full understanding of your situation. Make sure important documents regarding your family’s financial situation, taxes, and income are readily accessible. 

If this is the first time you or anyone in your family has done this, it is okay to ask for help or use helplines.

4. Apply for scholarships

Another way to rack up money for college is scholarships! There are a plethora of scholarships for being resilient, a twin, left handed, etc.

There’s a scholarship for anything and everything, and most scholarship money goes unclaimed each year. Check in with local agencies and governments, businesses, and everywhere else.

Sometimes you’ll be able to carry over supplements you used for college applications minimizing the actual amount of work you would have to put in for essays.

Scholarship communities can also be a great support network. Sometimes you can even meet people from your future school!

How To Prepare For Admissions Decisions

5. Research schools

Applying to the school is only part of the process! Interviews are an important part of the application process.

Talking with the admissions team, alumni, and current students through the school in these interviews not only lets them gauge what kind of person you are but also gives you a chance to network and learn about different aspects of the school.

Be sure to do more research to help you ask all the questions you could have and so they see how serious you are about their school. Before you know it, you will have to make choices and choose where you want to go (this step was harder for me than writing the supplements). School research helps!

6. Find new hobbies

Oftentimes —at least for me— my normal hobbies, tasks, and activities never satisfied my boredom. I spent so much time thinking about how I used knitting for a short answer question or tea making for “a class I would teach in the future.”

To get around this, I went out and sought new things to invest my time in. From trying to cook new cuisines to trying to make soaps, my mind was enraptured in trying to learn more about the processes.

In fact, these new interests helped me forget I was anticipating decisions sometimes. From another angle, they act as great conversation starters when in interviews!

7. Spend time with friends

College applications were a major stressor for me, and seeing friends who were already finished submitting everything or less stressed about it only increased my nerves.

To avoid this, I burrowed away while I wrote my supplements. This could be a very successful strategy when writing supplements (depending on the type of person you are), but can prove negative for personal relationships.

Show your friends you are still alive and you still care about them! Doing activities and things with them can also help pass time and stress less.

If they are going through the process with you, they could understand some of what you are going through. If they haven’t gone through the process yet, give them your little tidbits of advice and things to avoid.

8. Plan a day or week of your life in college

What helped me a lot was future planning. This included planning a day of my life, a week in my life, the possible set-up of my dorm room, potential majors, or even how I wanted to change up my style.

When doing this, I was never school specific just so I “didn’t get my hopes up.” By turning my attention away from the decision to other aspects of school, I become more excited for college in general rather than a specific school.

I heavily recommend trying this. When doing this planning, you can start to realize life skills you are weaker on so you can have enough time to be the best independent student you can be.

9. Relax and take a break! You deserve it!

Lastly, but arguably the most important, is to rest! You just submitted applications (one of the biggest feats you can take on as a high school student) and you deserve a break.

Burnout from taking on too many mentally-tasking things in a particular time period is very possible, and it’s difficult to come out of a rut. Treat and reward yourself however you may please.

You will never be a senior in high school again so do all the activities! At the end of the day, it is much better to remember this period of your life for the memories you forged rather than the stress you are under.

Don’t forget: you have people around you who are rooting for you (and us here at Niche are, too!).

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Author: Colin Davis

Hi everyone!! I'm Colin and I am a freshman at Columbia University in New York City! Currently my major is biochemistry on a premed. Growing up in a suburban town with not too much to do, I knew going to school in a city (or at least city-adjacent) was a big deal for me, so I spend a lot of time exploring the city with my friends. Other than that, I love to write anything under the spectrum from research papers or scatterbrained poetry, sing, compose music, and cook. Happy reading!