Senior Winter: The Long Wait and What Happens Now?

The winter holiday can be frenetic for seniors trying to meet final deadlines looming often on the 1st of January for many colleges and universities. This can be a stressful last sprint. And then an unsettling quiet takes hold – like the snowy winter landscape – and one may ask, what happens now? Welcome to the Long Wait!

Regarding the college admission process, January, February, and March are often about managing the wait. What started as a single conversation about one’s post-secondary hopes and dreams a year prior is now in the admission committee’s hands and deliberations.

Now that you have done your work, it is time for the college admissions offices to do their work. This period in the college admission world is called “reading season,” and it translates to this: All the applications that have been submitted for the Class of 2026 (and beyond) will be read and evaluated by two representatives (the state/or regional representative and one other admission counselor) who mark up a digital rubric/matrix assessing your academic work, degree of rigor and challenge, personal essays, extracurricular activities/special talents, teacher and college counselor recommendations, character, and standardized tests (if applicable). With your application reviewed, each reader will make recommendations, which will ultimately be discussed by the admission team (several adults). The results of those conversations will translate to an acceptance, denial, or a wait list.

As the Director of Admissions at Tufts stated about this period: “each application is a new story, an opportunity to meet you. As I open each file, I never know who will be ‘talking’ to me or what I will learn. Your essays make me laugh, sigh, and nod in appreciation; sometimes the latent English teacher in me corrects your grammar. Every once in a while I think, ‘Wow, this kid is so much smarter than me.’ It is humbling, inspiring. Your idealism, your good will, and earnestness are apparent.”

Unless there is a new development that is really compelling (just made the US Olympic Curling Team, won the Youth Nobel Peace Prize), it is not the time to send one more email expressing how much you like the college. That time has passed. Have confidence that you put forth the best application you could; let it stand on its own merits, and let them do their work.

In the meantime, enjoy the winter wherever you are; stay focused on your academic work (because your final transcript will be sent to wherever you matriculate and you do not want any poor grades to raise concerns and a meeting in June!); and be present as rising graduates for everything – big and small – during this last semester. It goes quickly.