The College Wait: What Students Feel, Experience Between November, May


Photo by Elenna Mach

Senior Sam Wells discusses the emotions seniors endure as they finally subit their applications in the fall but then have to wait until the spring to begin hearing back.

Gili Golan, Staff Writer

As the May 1 national decision day for colleges quickly approaches, stress sets in for seniors as they grapple with their final days of high school and struggle to decide where to further their education.

The thought process of students after their applications have been sent varies.  One similarity among seniors is that it is difficult to think of anything else, constantly refreshing emails and checking mailboxes for a response.

For senior Brian Reyes, who applied to seven different schools across the U.S. this fall, applications have taken priority over his classes throughout the first semester.  

“It’s been hard to focus on much else for the past couple months because this whole thing has taken so much time and work,” Reyes said.

After receiving his acceptance letters, Reyes completed financial research for scholarship opportunities and campus tours. He has decided to attend Salisbury University (SU) next fall.

This consideration of financial aid and scholarships also seems to be a recurring theme among seniors who are having trouble making their college decisions such as senior Barrie Pasternak.

“Finding out about scholarships will play a large role in where I end up going,” Pasternak said.

In hopes of receiving these scholarship opportunities, Pasternak submitted all of her applications by the early action deadlines. An early action application gave her the opportunity to hear back faster from schools, therefore giving her more time to make her decision.

Tuition is not the only factor Pasternak is considering. She also plans to factor in which school has the best Biology and Pre-Med program between University of Maryland College Park (UMD), University of South Carolina (USC) and the University of Wisconsin Madison (UW).

Students also have the option of applying early decision, which differs from early action. In this type of application, students are legally bound to attend the school they applied to, if accepted. This gives them the best chance of getting in by committing to the school, but it also puts pressure on students because they need to commit to one school, and before financial aid is specified.

All of these types of applications have there advantages, but it seems that early action is the widely favored one in the college app world because it allows the applicant to hear back from any given school and still have time to consider the other options that one might have to consider such as other school offers and financial aid opportunities.

Senior Samuel Wells applied to five schools in the early action fashion as well this past fall, and was deferred from his “reach school,”  Northeastern University in Boston.

A “reach school” is a school that the applicant does not expect to get in but believes that there is still a slight chance. On the other end of the spectrum, a “safety school” is one in which the applicant applies to in order to fall back on if they haven’t gotten into one of their top choice schools.

A deferred or waitlisted decision means that the student has not been accepted at the current time, but they still have a chance to be accepted within the regular decision pool of applicants.

Regardless, Wells was grateful to finally hear back from all the schools that he was accepted to and to have other offers for him to choose from. The worry and wait was finally over for him which was comforting as it is easy for students to grow discouraged during the waiting period.

“I was really happy and relieved to hear from the other four schools that I got in, and before that, I had trouble focusing on school or really anything else until I heard back, it really took some weight off my chest,” Wells said.

With acceptances coming in, many seniors have noticed that their “senioritis” has increased, with motivation and work ethic levels decreasing.

“Towards the end of school it’s not just one thing, but I feel there definitely is a lack of motivation for me to get things done like I used to when I had a goal in mind,” Wells said.

The amount of stress that comes with college applications has also spread to juniors.

“I have started to think about it [college applications] a lot, but I haven’t actually done anything about it yet,” junior Phoebe Reiter said. “I also feel pressure from friends that are seniors that have told me how much of a time-consuming process it is and I am really just not looking forward to it at all.”  

While some juniors and underclassmen might already be feeling the pressure of college applications and decisions resulting in negative outcomes, there is still hope.

“The outcome is worth the long rigorous process,” Wells said.