• Dr. Thom

What to do after all of the applications are in


Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

My father had a number of sayings and “-isms”, that still bring a smile to my face to this day. Often we would be in the car together, driving through my childhood neighborhood, and we would pass this one house with an overeager puppy in the yard. Inevitably, the dog would begin to vigorously bark and frantically chase our car as it rolled past. Such energy and intensity put forth toward some vague notion of a goal of catching us, I always admired the dog. My dad would always wonder aloud, “What’s he going to do if he ever caught our car?”


It came to represent for me the blind spot I sometimes have for the “Now what?” space that fills in behind the work I devoted toward a large goal. I experienced it after every finished finals week, receiving my doctorate, and many career and personal goals. We all can get so wrapped up in the chasing that we are caught flat footed once we reach the goal.


Many of our seniors are now reaching a moment when all of the applications they have been working on for the last six months are now submitted. They are asking, “Now what?”


Here are our best answers.


Take care of all of the “stuff”


Yes, the application is submitted, but now you need to make sure all of the required supplemental documentation is submitted. Transcripts, test scores (if you have them), letters of recommendation, interviews, scholarship applications - they all need to be requested and submitted.


If you applied through the Common Application, you can often request these documents from the various professionals responsible at your high school. You can also login to the Common App after you have submitted your application to see if these documents have been submitted to the college or university.


You will want to become familiar with the application portal for each college to which you have applied and login to each of them regularly. What is an application portal? It is an online account that allows you to track all of your application materials, see what is outstanding, and eventually, see what your admission decision will be. Don’t know how to login to your colleges’ admissions portals? That leads us to . . .


Check your dang email


We say this lovingly, but seriously . . . check it! Admissions offices are not going to tweet you, snapchat you, or send smoke signals about your application. They will send you an email or they may text you (if you opted in for that kind of communication) about your application. Make sure that you are checking that email address regularly. Better yet, go into your email settings and whitelist the email address domains of the schools to which you applied. If you have not heard from a college after 3-5 business days from submitting your application, assume something is wrong. You should at least expect a confirmation email from the college that they are in receipt of your application.


To interview or not to interview


Many colleges offer optional admissions interviews with local alumni or even directly with an admissions officer. Since they are optional, should you still do them? We say yes, IF the college is among your top choices (top third or so). These are time consuming for you and the interviewer, so don’t waste their time if you really are not that interested in the school. That said, these interviews can be great opportunities to provide a personal connection with the school and for you to learn more about the college.


Remember to smile a lot, make sure you have adequate wifi, lighting, and sound, and always send a thank you note or email.


Most importantly, work on cultivating healthy detachment


This is the “so what” payoff for ALL of the hard work. Why do we put so much of ourselves and invest the time telling our authentic story to the world? So that at some point, we get to take a moment and appreciate the fact that we did all we could do in this process. Now it’s on the colleges to do their part, but for our part, we showed up and did the work.

There is a difference between avoidance and healthy detachment. Avoidance is where we know there is a solution available to improve our condition, or cope with our problems, but for whatever reason, we do not have the will or discipline of habits to pursue that solution. It is a version of surrendering our power to take action.


A healthy detachment comes from the realization that there is inherent uncertainty in the world, and that we must choose what we are going to care about and as well as ignore. I can tend the garden, actively caring for the plants, but watering the plants twice as often won’t necessarily make them grow twice as much. I must accept that the plant will grow in a way that is ultimately uncertain to me. My job is to create the best conditions, and then to let go.


You have created the best conditions for a favorable read of your application by putting your heart and deep care into what you submitted. Let the rest of it go.


Not working with us yet? Feeling stressed by the college search process? Let's chat.


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