The Waiting Game


They told me it wouldn’t be until the first week of June, but I continue to check the portal every few days. Exactly 100 days from the moment I hit the “submit” button—this is the amount of time it will take to determine whether they want me or not. Everyone says, “be patient, it’s a rite of passage, and what will be will be.” Patience has never been my strong suit and as I ponder this position I have placed myself in, I reflect on the many students I have told the exact same thing.

Throughout my career, I have sat on both sides of the table involving college decision making—as a college admission member and a high school counselor. Whether I was reading, interviewing, or evaluating for acceptances—often chuckling at student email addresses (seriously there were some winners)—or working with students preparing for college admission, reviewing essays, matching applications, or preparing for those nerve-shattering interviews, I had decisions to make. Yes—I like the essay, or no—do it again! I had the power and could determine the outcome.

I can remember many students referring to my office as “the great escape.” Literally a place that students could run to cry, rest, and one even came running in asking if she could just “throw a hand stand” up against the wall so as to gain her composure. I was there for all of it—good, bad, or worst of all: “waitlisted.”

It’s now my turn! I am waiting, worrying, and wishing for an answer soon. The final seven days are fast approaching as I anxiously await word of whether I will receive acceptance to a PhD program that I have waited a lifetime to apply to. If I were reviewing this file, would it be worthy of a YES? My essays were spectacular; the recommendations—I was told—were superior; my interview was longer than I expected, which is always a good sign; and I even was required to complete a writing sample on the spot…an opportunity I jumped at as a moment to shine.

Yet here I am, waiting for someone to determine whether I am worthy.

My family and friends continue to respond with “of course they want you.” This doesn’t help!!!! I want it now…I need it now…and if I don’t hear something soon, I am going to lose it!

Like all high school seniors, I have worked hard and followed the rules. If you stay out of trouble, produce an amazing GPA and standardized test scores, volunteer and make a difference in someone else’s world, there will be a school that will support your dreams. Yet, the person on the other side of the computer will be the one to read and review all of these documents to determine our fate. Yes or no? We need to know now…is it yes or no?

Whether I receive the big packet or the thin envelope in the mail, I have learned a great deal from this experience. First, I should have done this years ago so that I could gain a far better perspective of what my students were feeling. Second, I am glad I took the leap to put myself out there for scrutiny by an admission committee—because they are truly working to determine if I will be a good fit for the institution and trust me, I will ask them “why?” if I receive the NO. Finally, those of us who have spent a lifetime in college admission/counseling must never forget that for every file that crosses your desk, there is a person who has shared their burning desire to attend your institution and they are currently counting the days until you say …yes or no!

Susanna Smith recently accepted a new position as an academic advisor at the University of Maryland, College Park. She previously worked in the college counseling office at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore.

4 thoughts on “The Waiting Game”

  1. Ms. Smith has done an excellent job of showing the importance of walking in her students’ shoes. That kind of empathy and compassion are ideals which we all should strive to achieve.

  2. It is probably ONLY when you have walked in another’s shoes that you can develop that empathy and compassion.
    Ms. Smith , after sitting on both sides of the table, has demonstrated the ability –no , the necessity–of actually trying to understand the context of the person facing you at any given time.

  3. Ms. Smith’s unique perspective is a lesson for all of us working with students, in college counseling and beyond. She underscores the value of understanding the entire child sitting before you, and all of the emotion, angst and effort that goes into the checklist for the application, a completed test or an English paper. It’s a lesson we can never hear often enough…

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