How to Deal with Early Decision News, Good or Bad

If you’re applying to schools early, you’re likely to be feeling anxious about recent or upcoming deadlines, as well as the prospect of upcoming acceptance or deferral letters. First of all, congratulate yourself! You’re dealing with the college process at the speed of light, and that certainly doesn’t come without its challenges.

Current collegiettes have been there, done that and lived to tell the tale. We’re here to help you combat any and all early decision-related anxiety, as well as confront everything you’re dealing with if you’ve already heard from schools. Read on for assurance of all kinds with a collegiette stamp of approval, as well as some expert words of wisdom.

If you haven’t gotten any letters yet...

Breathe, you’re going to soon! Seeing everyone around you hear back might make the world feel like it’s closing in, but you will hear from your schools. The waiting part of the college application process is the worst, but there are steps you can take to calm yourself down.

Take yourself out of the stressful environment of school and separate yourself from everyone else who has already heard back. Removing yourself from this pressure cooker will make you feel infinitely better. Being mindful in this way will make you realize that stressing isn’t going to make the news come faster, so step back and just appreciate the work you’ve done so far.

Sometimes, a delayed decision letter might simply be a matter of where you are and when mail gets delivered. It doesn’t mean that you won’t get in or that you’ll never go to college! "You pretty much just have to wait," says Michelle Podbelsek, Co-Director of College Counseling Associates. "Colleges will only release decisions on their timeline [and] you can ask, but if it is not released, it usually means the decision is not yet made." So don't worry!

Try to keep your mind off it as best you can by focusing on other things. “Get your other applications done while you wait to hear back,” says Sally Springer, Ph.D., college process expert and co-author of Admission Matters: What Students and Parents Need to Know About Getting Into College. “You don’t have to submit them, but having them ready to go if they are needed puts you in control of the process.” Concentrate on your other school work, activities and regular life.

If you’re still feeling anxious, there are plenty of resources at your disposal. Talk to your college guidance counselor, to the local representative for the school you’re waiting to hear from or to someone in the admissions office. Don’t be afraid to be annoying —it’s your future we’re talking about!

If you receive a deferral letter or get rejected...

It’s perfectly okay ––truly! People get rejected and deferred from schools every year and they manage. There’s still time for you to change your plan if you were counting on one place, and the school you ultimately choose could end up being your dream school. Don’t get down on yourself. What’s done is done, and it’s up to you to learn from the experience and move forward.

If you were deferred, remember that this is not a rejection! “Schools defer students for many reasons: to see fall semester grades, to get a better sense of the applicant pool...or because they consciously hold back from admitting too many in the early round,” says Springer. Try not to take it too personally.

You can even look at this as a chance to do-over part of your process. “You can’t resubmit your application, but you can add to it,” says Springer. Write a letter of interest if you are still really into the school, and consider sending supplemental application materials like previous art you’ve done or papers you’ve written. Consult your college guidance counselor here to determine your next steps.

If you were rejected, it’s completely fine to grieve over bad news about a school. "Try to distract yourself and let time pass," says Podbelsek. "A dream school may seem like the best and 'only' option at first, but as time passes, [you'll realize] there are many great colleges and other options."

Rejection is difficult and what’s important here is to not let it impact the rest of your attitude towards college or your attitudes toward your friends. You may be feeling super cynical, but keep in mind that other people aren’t necessarily in the same situation.

Remember who you are, and that if a school doesn’t recognize how fantastic you are, it’s probably because there’s a better place out there for you. If it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be. There are more schools you’re waiting to hear from, and your entire future isn’t over just because one school said no. You have your whole life ahead of you, college is just a little blip!

Related: 7 Ways to Celebrate Submitting Your College Applications

If you receive an acceptance letter...

The past several months or maybe even year have been a whirlwind, and you’re through the worst of it. That’s no small feat, so just take a second to literally thank yourself and those who helped you get where you are. You’ve made it.

It’s time to celebrate! You did it. Buy yourself a cake or treat yourself to a night off or a shopping spree —seriously! This is a big deal. There were certainly points at which it felt like everything was pointless or you wouldn’t make it all the way through, and you did.  

You are in the very lucky position to potentially be done with applying to college. Remember this, and try to keep up the positivity for friends who are still going through it, but be careful and sensitive. “I encourage everyone to save overt bursts of emotion, whether shrieks of joy or tears of disappointment, for a private setting,” says Springer. Obviously, you don’t want to rub anything in their face, and this process is enormously delicate and subjective.

What’s next? Now it’s decision-making time on your end. There’s plenty of research to do and action to take even after you’ve already gotten in. Make a schedule of the deadlines by which you have to let the school know whether you’ve chosen them or not, and get all of the necessary information you need to make that decision.

You might also want to take another visit. If you're not in a binding situation, you still have to think hard about your ultimate decision of where to go. "If time has passed you need to check your current feelings," says Podbelsek. Talk to people you know at the school, research financial aid and other details about the campus and culture!

Maybe your plan is just refocusing on the rest of high school. You can finally relax and enjoy your senior year. You do you!

If you’re not in a situation where you’re bound to a school, you can even decide to take your time with your decision. “I still didn’t commit to a college until the very last minute,” says Abby Piper, a junior at University of Notre Dame. “In my case, getting the earlier acceptance letter didn’t really alter my decision that much.” Whether you end up going to this school or not, just feel good about having a certain percent of the process under your belt.

Plus, remember that a school’s name or credentials aren’t what makes it a great place. It’s up to you to get to college and make the experience your own! “The important thing to remember throughout the process is that while there are no perfect schools, there are many schools where a student will be perfectly happy,” says Springer.

In any case, remember that where you end up does not determine who you are as a person, let alone the rest of your life. If you don’t realize this now, you will, trust us! College is what it is, four (give or take) years of your life, and that’s it. Beyond that, it’s what you make of it, regardless of where you are.

About The Author

Margeaux Biché is a current senior at Barnard College living in New York City. During her freshman year, she studied at the George Washington University in D.C., where she wrote for The GW Hatchet. She is a Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies major and is passionate about social justice. While she does not know exactly where she'll take her degree, she hopes she can contribute to the advancement of marginalized peoples through legal and/or activist work. Chocolate covered pretzels are her favorite food, Rihanna is her favorite musician and her go-to talent is her ability to wiggle her ears. Margeaux loves dogs, hiking and her hometown basketball team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, all of which are oft-featured on her Instagram account.

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