And Then, You Wait

And Then, You Wait

Kate Boyle Ramsdell
Director of College Counseling, Noble and Greenough School
“First you have brown, all around you have brown… then there are seeds… and a wish for rain.” –Julie Fogliano, And Then It’s Spring 

When my older son was born, it wasn’t long before I was hooked on finding children’s books that I actually enjoyed reading aloud. I could only take so much of Hop on Pop and Moo, Ba, La La La. (Forgive me if those are family favorites!)

I stumbled across And Then It’s Spring during a mid-winter 2015 trip to a local bookstore. There were over 100 inches of snow on the ground in Boston. The book offered the promise of green. My seniors, the ones who hadn’t applied early or who hadn’t gotten in early, were waiting… and waiting… for their college news to drop. For most of them – for us – winter felt interminable. March and April weren’t yet tiny lights at the end of the long, blustery, college tunnel. 

I have thought and written about the college process for a long time now – almost half of my life, which is a bit hard to swallow. And a topic I always come back to is this: why is waiting so darn hard? I know adults tend blame adolescents and their seeming inability to wait on social media and the instant gratification of posting, snapping, and tweeting. But waiting for college news was hard in 1992, when I didn’t have Facebook, or Snapchat, or Twitter. It just was. My life – my future – was hanging out there somewhere, not in cyberspace, but in a file in the back room of an admission office. We didn’t even have the distraction of our phones to help us pass the time! 

One of the things I have to admit I love about being a college counselor is that there is often a task – a tangible “to do” – attached to a process that can often feel stressful and emotionally draining. So, even when I am in the midst of a really hard conversation about a deferral, or a deny, or even a complicated financial aid gapping scenario, there is often a way to take a break from talking and processing, a way to actually do something that might make a difference. I find that kids appreciate this part of the process, too. 
If you are still waiting for your news, and if you’ve been deferred, there are a few things you can do. Here is what we tell our students:
1) Make sure you have a balanced list of regular decision schools. If your list still seems top-heavy, it is not too late to submit one or two applications to colleges that will provide you with a great option come spring! This doesn’t need to be a hasty decision. Maybe you saw a college over the summer that could make it back onto your list because it fits most of your key criteria. Perhaps there is a college that you’ve researched and is a great fit, but where demonstrated interest is not a significant factor in their decision-making process. You’re not at the point of no return with your list, and there are great colleges whose deadlines have not passed! 
2) Gather some information. If you’ve been deferred at a college or university that you really like, work with your college counselor to figure out if you have a reasonable shot at being accepted in April. Many colleges admit fewer than 10% of the students they defer. It’s a good time to come to terms with that notion. It’s also a good time to recognize that you often have to make a decision about EDII without a definitive answer regarding the deferral. Perhaps you should consider an EDII application (if you have not already) to another school that is high on your list and an appropriate EDII target. If you have missed an EDII deadline, but your application is already filed regular decision at a college, some colleges will convert regular decision applications to EDII up to a certain point in the winter. Sometimes, it’s worth a call just to find out. Know your options and build a wise and thoughtful strategy from there.  
3) Write a love letter. Send an update to the college(s) where you have been deferred! I often jokingly refer to it as a “love letter” when I’m describing it to my counselees. It does not need to be long (a typed page is plenty!), but it should be honest, upbeat, and helpful to admission readers. You probably sent your application in early November, and I’m betting that you’ve been busy since then. Give an update on your first semester – share news of a class or project that went particularly well; offer new information about your co-curricular life (maybe you were cast in the winter play, or perhaps you worked on a special project with one of the community organizations that you mentioned in your resume). Reiterate to the admission team why the college remains your first choice! You should not regurgitate your application or your “Why College X” essay, but you can certainly demonstrate that you’ve thought carefully about the fit. Use your own voice and let your excitement shine through. 
4) Don’t be a noodge. I love the word noodge – it’s onomatopoeic. Anyway, it’s great to let colleges know: “I’m still here!” However, they don’t need or expect to hear from you regularly at this stage. You have applied. You have checked your portal to be sure everything is there. You have done your due diligence (and your counselor has, too). 
Then, there really is waiting that has to happen. Julie Fogliano’s optimism about spring holds for me in the college process. The anticipation can feel long, and often it is anxiety provoking. But, while you wait, you should still be doing the things that you love, engaging in your high school community in meaningful ways – learning, even! 
“And then you wait….
And it is still brown, but a hopeful, very possible sort of brown….
And then it is one more week 
and a sunny day, that sunny day that happened right after that rainy day 
and you walk outside to check on all that brown…
and now you have green, 
all around 
you have 
And senior spring. Which is pretty nice, too.

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