In addition to looking forward to the holidays, many students and their families are also eagerly waiting for the results from their early applications. Most results will start reaching inboxes and mailboxes the second week of December, which is a short time away.

There are a variety of decisions you may receive and I wanted to take some time to explain them along with your options.

I’m accepted! Now what?

If you were accepted, congratulations! There is a myth that they only get sent out in thick envelopes, but these days, they can be sent via email or via regular thin envelopes at first.

If you applied early decision, then that means you are going to that school. Ideally, this should have been your first choice, so hopefully you are thrilled. You may receive an estimated aid package along with your acceptance. You will receive information on how to send in your deposit. Once you’ve sent it in, you’re all set! Please also remember to rescind your application from the other schools you’ve been accepted to and let them know you’ve been accepted elsewhere.

If you applied early action, you have the option of waiting for the rest of your application results to come in, before making a decision. However, if it is your number one choice, then you are also free to send in a deposit to secure your place. Similarly, they will offer any preliminary financial packages, including merit scholarships, if you qualify. At the same time, you can wait for the rest of your results to arrive next Spring and make your choice then.

I’m deferred. What does that mean?

Good news is it means you are a decent candidate. Unfortunately, they don’t have enough space for early acceptance to take you at this time. They will however re-consider your application with regular decision applicants. It’s like receiving a second chance. You will receive your final decision in the Spring.

Another upside to being deferred, is if you applied early decision, you are now released from your commitment to attend the school should you be accepted in the regular decision round. The benefit is you can now consider any other schools that may accept you regular decision since being deferred releases you from your early decision commitment. You can now wait for the rest of your results to arrive in the Spring to make your decision.

In the meantime, if you are passionate about attending that school, you can consider sending an email or letter expressing your utmost desire to attend. In a few instances, it can be beneficial.

I’m waitlisted. What does that mean?

Being waitlisted is similar to being deferred, except it happens typically during the regular decision results. It means that they thought you were a good candidate, but they do not have enough spaces at the moment. As they start to receive decisions from applicants who have been accepted on whether or not they decide to attend that school, a spot might open up and you may be accepted off the waitlist at that time.

There is not much control you have over this either, but there have been few instances where students who have written in to express their desire to attend and reiterated why they are a good fit for the school do manage to get off the waitlist and are accepted.

I was denied. What happened?

Oftentimes, it is difficult to accept rejections. However, if you applied to a balanced list of schools, chances are, you may receive a rejection or two. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure or less adequate in any way. There are excellent students who still get rejected by top tier schools. The truth is, there are a limited number of s

pots and there are more qualified applicants than there are spaces in most situations.

As long as you have tried your best, just know it might be that you may not have been a right fit for each other. If you receive a

rejection letter and you are concerned about your prospects, you can consider applying for schools that have later deadlines or may have rolling admissions. If all else fails, you can always consider community college for the first year and then transfer to another school in the future. You can actually save quite a bit of money this way as well.

Overall, you know if you have put in the time and effort to competing your applications as thoughtfully as possible. If you plan ahead, you will have many options available to you. Wishing you a happy holidays with hopefully equally happy admissions results!

Its junior year of high school and you’re trying to figure out what to do for that pivotal summer before senior year. You know it’s important. After all, it’s a common question for supplemental essays you’ll encounter on your college applications this Fall, so what do you do?

Here are four ideas for activities that will help you stand out for college admissions:

1. Get a Job - Working a paid job over the summer demonstrates responsibility, persistence, and diligence and if you can find a job that demonstrates humility, that’s even better! Given the push for diversity lately, if you can find a job in which you get to interact with those that are different from you, it may also provide inspiration for future essays you write.

Given that college students usually look for jobs upon returning home from school in May, try to get a head start, by applying for jobs in April. Try looking for work in your local neighborhood - it can be at the local grocery store, mall, or restaurant. The best way to find something is to get in there and ask the manager if they are hiring. It will also give you an opportunity to practice your communication and interviewing skills.

2. Volunteer – Similar to getting a job, volunteering in your local community demonstrates all of the above, but on top of it, it also gives admissions glimpse into your character and what you care about. Given last year’s new focus on “niceness,” participating in volunteer activities that relate to your interests and demonstrate your time commitment and level of involvement are all great ways to show admissions your concern for others.

Many students ask if they need to go abroad to volunteer and the truth is, it is better to volunteer and give back locally. If there is an organization that you’re particularly fond of, reach out to them and see how you can get involved. Volunteer opportunities also fill up fast, so try to reach out to different organizations as soon as possible.

3. Start Something – Colleges love students who take initiative! Maybe you can’t find an organization that does what you would love to do? Well, that’s the perfect reason to start one! Whether it be starting your own business, non-profit, or other activity, starting your own thing provides you with instant leadership and demonstrates your entrepreneurial spirit.

If you’re apprehensive about start something on your own, think about starting something with a friend of yours who shares your interest. It doesn’t have to be fancy. For example, you could start a chess club at your local library where you not only host times for people to play together, but perhaps you offer coaching sessions to little kids to introduce them to chess too. It can be anything – just start something – the sooner the better!

4. Dive into Your Passions – The main theme for your activities should be related to what you are passionate about – academically, personally, and professionally. The summer is a great time to either continue to further deepen your involvement in these areas or to further explore them. For example, if you are interested in studying business, but your school doesn’t offer any business classes, consider participating in summer programs or activities that would enable you to explore that interest further, whether it be a weeklong educational program or an opportunity to shadow someone in an industry you are interested in going into. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money either. And remember, if you are interested in attending a summer program at a college or university, do it because you genuinely like the program and not because you think it will improve your chances of getting accepted by the school – because it doesn’t.

Can you find the common theme between these four activities? Whatever you do, it should be about YOUR interests and YOUR growth as a person! They are also all opportunities that will hopefully inspire stories for you to share on your supplemental essays. Now is a great time to get started as deadlines for summer programs, jobs, and volunteer opportunities come up soon! What did you end up doing for the summer? Would love to hear from you in the comments below!

With schools like Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford hitting record-low acceptance rates this year, it’s easy for rising seniors to get a little stressed over applying to college. And with reports that hiring a college admissions consultant costs $30,000 to $500,000 (the average is really $6,000 to $15,000 depending on where you live), it’s easy to think that a family needs to spend a lot of money in order to get help with applying for college.

As a first-generation college student born to immigrant parents who only went to elementary and middle school, I am a big fan of free resources. But with thousands of resources online, spending time looking for all of them can take forever, which is why we want to share some great free resources that can help you with different parts of the college admissions process.

  1. Figuring Out Your Major — Don’t know what you want to study? Don’t worry! Cappex offers a great quiz you can take that will help you identify what you may want to major in and pursue as a career.

  2. Building the College List — Ever hear counselors or consultants talk about creating that balanced list of “best fit” schools? What does that even mean? Well, it means finding a list of schools that not only help you grow academically, but personally as well — a place where you’ll be able to thrive. A great resource to get you started on putting your list together is Collegeboard’s Big Future College Search tool.

  3. Getting to Know Your Schools — Just like anyone you’re going to meet, if you plan on spending four years of life there, you’ll want to make sure you get a feel for the culture. While visiting schools in person are great, it might not always be possible. Utilize to learn more about the school right from the student’s that go there.

  4. Understanding What a Good Essay Is — You’ve heard that you’ve got to stand out through your essay, but how are you supposed to do that? What does that mean? Well, I honestly believe it’s easiest to learn by example. Before you start brainstorming, visit John Hopkins’ University’s Essays That Worked and Connecticut College’s Essays That Worked to see some real examples from accepted students and why they worked.

  5. Managing the College Application Process — Worried about how you’re going to stay on top of everything you have to do for your college applications? Take advantage of Apply101 and Collegeboard’s Big Future College Application Checklist to keep track of each task you need to take care of for your college application.

  6. Searching for Scholarships- With cost of attendance for colleges and universities around $25,000 to over $65,000 a year, finding money for college is more important than ever. Take advantage of Fastweb’s Scholarship Search and find money for school and make affording college a reality.

Getting help with applying for college doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Don’t let the college application process stress you out. Utilize these free resources to make the most out of college admissions.

Get my “Crafting Memorable College Application Essays Workbook” for FREE

Stay up to date on college admissions trends and get real tips on the Coast2Coast College Admissions Podcast. Check it out on iTunes here or check out the website to submit your own questions.

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