Every year, I look forward to January and the promise of newness and excitement that it brings. New year’s resolutions are still in check (mostly) and a year of adventure surely lies ahead.

But while the new year brings a lot of excitement, it can also bring a sense of unease as the college admissions process enters the long, dreaded, waiting period.

Application deadlines have passed, and now there’s nothing left to do but wait. The college application process is a lot of “hurry up and wait,” and the first few months into a new year usually involve a LOT of waiting. Many colleges don’t release final decisions until late March—or even early April—which can lead to restlessness and frustration as high school seniors are eager to make a final decision about where they’ll be attending college.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I give to students in this situation is to step back, reflect on all they’ve accomplished so far, and enjoy the remainder of their senior year. The stress of writing admissions essays, filling out college applications, and fighting against the clock to meet deadlines has passed. Now, you have a stretch of relatively “task-free” months that are yours to enjoy!

For many of you, these next several months will be the last time you are in the same place with the same people. As Billy Madison once said, “Cherish it! For the love of God, cherish it!” You’ll soon be in a new place with all new people, so take these next several months and spend time reflecting on how this place and those closest to you have shaped you.

Speaking of things shaping you, I also like to remind my students in this time of waiting that where you go is not who you’ll be. Every family member, teacher, distant cousin once removed, and lady at the grocery store seems to have a vested interest in where you’ll be attending. It can be hard NOT to find a bit of your identity wrapped up in your school of choice and worry that where you get in will determine your entire life trajectory. But it’s important to keep in mind that the right school will choose you and that all will work out in the end.

In fact, I encourage my students to revisit the applications they submitted in the fall and look over their long list of accomplishments in the activities section. Read through that personal statement again and remind yourself about what you’ve achieved. Colleges are now getting to see that for themselves, and the right school will see your application and pick you because you match up with what they’re looking for.

Your college choice does not define you. Your accomplishments do. Your connections do. The work you do in college and beyond does.

So take a breath, spend time with your friends, and give your parents a hug. Do all that you can to enjoy these final months spent at home, because May 1st will be here before you know it.

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