Preparing for College

Scanning for the Mailman

It's that time of year. It's the time of year that high school seniors anticipate with mightily mixed emotions. The envelope please . . .

It's the time of year when many high school seniors camp out by their mailboxes. Mid-March through mid-April is a waiting time, waiting for college admission (or rejection) letters.

The theory says that if you get a fat letter from a college to which you've applied, you're in. If it's a skinny letter, you're out. As with all generalities, there are exceptions. Some of America's most prestigious universities send out a small, skinny envelope with its good news. There may be other skinny "yes" letters out there too.Some colleges want admitted students to fill out housing and dining forms included with the admission letters. That's why admit letters are fat. Skinny ones offer consolation along with rejection and require only a single sheet of paper. Some schools send good news in a thin envelope and send all the forms separately. When you pull a skinny envelope from your mailbox, don't abandon ship. Read it first. It may surprise you.

Waiting is the hard part. What can you do while waiting for the mailman? If you mailed your application in January, you've been waiting almost three months now. You may want to map out a few contingencies, the old "If I don't get into college A, I'll make the most of college B." If you have a plan, you'll be able to make the most of your final acceptance situations.

If you've done your application planning properly, you won't be shut out. Ideally, all the schools to which you've applied will accept you. That will give you an advantage in dealing with financial aid offers. If several strong schools have accepted you, you can find out which one is willing to give the greatest aid.

No matter how your fat or skinny envelope drama plays out, keep your perspective. Reality dwells somewhere between the extremes of elation and disappointment.

Did I just hear the mailman?

Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.