College Thoughts: Waiting on Decisions without Going Crazy

5 min readDec 11, 2019

The winter break is almost upon us, which means it’s time to hang out with family, jam out to holiday tunes, and pig out on far too many sugary desserts. It’s also a time to reflect upon the year and prepare for the new year.

But, this time of year can also be especially hard for you seniors who are waiting for college decisions. Rejection hurts, for sure, but it’s common, especially for those highly selective colleges (which are reaches for everyone, despite what you’ve heard). As Jennifer Wallace and Lisa Heffernan wrote in “Advice College Admissions Officers Give Their Own Kids” in The New York Times “Well” blog, “An essential lesson of the college process is learning to make and manage big life decisions and weather setbacks.” So, I’m not gonna sugar coat it and say you absolutely will get into every single one of your dream schools. I will say this: hold onto your hearts.

This waiting can be godawful, super stressful, and tortuous, I know. And it will feel even worse if that long waiting period results in a deferral or a rejection. The cool thing is that if your ED/EA school doesn’t work out, you’re still gonna have lots of great options. I promise.

Let’s walk through exactly how to emotionally plan for college decisions

Know what to plan for

First, what is the difference between rejection and deferral?

Rejection — bottom line, the school, for whatever reason, has declined to accept you. It sucks. But it’s not the end of the world. As much as I truly believe that you are capable of doing the work, getting what you want, being who you are, and putting yourself in the best position possible, there sometimes comes a point where you have to let the universe take control. Life often ends up working out the way it’s supposed to, and I know you probably hate hearing that, but I have to say it.

Deferral or Waitlist — this isn’t a straight-up rejection, but it kind of is because the school has told you that they will not take you during the early application phase. Instead, you’ve been put in the pile with the regular decision applications, and they’ll revisit your application with that group. You still have a chance, but you should think of it as a rejection to allow yourself to move on. Send that letter of continued interest; just know that deferral often fails to turn into acceptance. So the best thing to do is emotional planning and focus on your regular deadline apps.

Note: If you were deferred, that means the school wants more information before they make their decision. Find out ASAP what they want to know and get it to them quickly.

Hope for the best…

It’s really important that you do some EP (Emotional Planning) right now before you hear back. Your mental and emotional health is far more important than where you go to college. So, hope for the best, of course. You’ve worked your asses off to get to a position to even be able to apply to the schools you applied to. You wrote killer essays and presented yourself as your best you on your very best day. It’s only natural to be hopeful and you should be.

…but you gotta be realistic too

The realities of admissions are that there are just too many of all these beautiful yous to be funneled into that tiny little teacup full of colleges you’re applying to, and some of you (many of you — I’ll be honest) won’t get in. So hope for the best, but please prepare yourself for the “worst.” I put “worst” in quotation marks because I know that often what seems like the “worst thing that could possibly happen” can turn out to be something really quite wondrous in the end. One way to prepare might be to check out this blog from Georgia Tech with a “National Preparation Day” pledge and all.


RAIN is a technique from Mindful Meditation that can help you go through the feelings and thoughts that accompany the disappointment of rejection or deferral. When you get overwhelmed, remember these feelings and thoughts are temporary, and they will pass.

RAIN stands for:

Recognize that you are having these thoughts and feelings.

Allow the experience to be there, just as it is.

Investigate your thoughts and feelings with kindness

Non-identify: these are your thoughts and feelings, but they are not YOU.

Find support around you

Don’t forget to take a look around you right now, this minute, and see your friends, the beautiful blue sky, the snow on the ground, your pets, your teachers, your warm bed, and whatever it is in your moment right now that you can appreciate. And don’t forget we’re here on A2C to cheer for you if it does work out for the best for you and to console you when it doesn’t.

Know that you’re an awesome person independent of college decisions

You may feel different about this right now, but receiving a deferral or rejection letter does not make you stupid or worthless. Here’s the-honest-to-goodness-truth: you are an incredible person, and you’re gonna kickass wherever you go. You don’t need any certain school to do that. You don’t need a certain school to become the person you want to be in the world. You don’t need a mythical name-brand school to spark the fire that lights your way. That fire? It is YOU.

So be kind to and support yourself, whatever news you receive this winter.

If you want to learn more about the elements of the College Admissions Experience, or if you need advice about how to handle college decisions, head over to Amazon and pick up a copy of my book, Hey AdmissionsMom: Real Talk from Reddit.

You can also find me on r/ApplyingToCollege, drop into the comments, or reach out to me on Twitter or Instagram.

Good luck and stay awesome!




College Admissions Consultant. Mindfulness in College Admissions. Author: Hey AdmissionsMom: Real Talk from Reddit.