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Life After Early Apps: How to Stay Motivated Through Regular Decision Deadlines

By Zach, IvyWise College Admissions Counselor

For high school seniors who applied early to their top-choice schools, October was a whirlwind as they completed applications and supplements for schools with November deadlines. Since then, students may have taken a well-deserved deep breath, but early decision notification dates loom – as do regular application deadlines. So how can seniors stay motivated as they wait for their early application results?

Focus on Completing Regular Decision Applications
As students await their early application fate, it’s easy to lose motivation to continue working on your Regular Decision applications. For many students, the perfect scenario is that they applied to their top choice in the early round, find they’re admitted by December 15, and the stress of supplement-writing melts away. Hooray! They’re done! This scenario, of course, is not possible for everyone. There’s always the chance of a rejection or deferral, so now, in addition to being disappointed and far more interested in relaxing during a holiday break, you find yourself applying to additional schools out of frustration instead of genuine interest. Losing steam now can hurt you in the long run so it’s important to stay motivated!

Aim to continue working on your remaining Regular Decision applications before you find out about those early round submissions. You will be in a better head space, have more time to work on them, and will be considering the regular decision school as if it is an option not a setback. Any school that requires a supplemental essay wants them to written with care, attention, and sincerity – that’s hard to pull off in the final week of December in the aftermath of disappointing news. Working on those now also allows for three weeks to put in the proper time and focus, which makes it less tempting to recycle an essay you used in the early round and plop it into a new prompt. Although it’s resourceful to utilize similar ideas, pasting an essay written for one school and changing a few university terms can be seen a mile away – and is a quick way to diminish your application in the eyes of the admission committee. If a school is on your list, even if it isn’t your top choice, it deserves real effort.

Think Critically About Your Post-Decision Notification Strategy
Regardless of the quality of your application, rising anxiety and endless hypotheticals are only natural this time of year. Put your mind at ease by creating a post-early decision notification strategy during this calmer, more objective time before the craziness of early application results begins. This interim time is the right moment to think critically about your list and make these clinical, strategic choices now so you can quickly react.

In case of a deferral or rejection, consider your other options besides your Regular Decision applications. Do you have a definite second-choice school? If so, do they offer Early Decision II, often a January 1 or 15 deadline? ED II is still an advantageous application period and can provide a better chance of admission instead of Regular Decision if you find yourself wanting to go all-in on that second-choice after a disappointing early round result. If you already submitted your application to your clear-cut second choice, contact that school and ask if your Regular Decision application to be moved to the ED II pool. Lastly, take a truly impartial look at your list and consider if you’ve left off any good-fit “likely” schools. Having these low-risk, light-lifting options in your back pocket can be a strong mental safety net.

Staying motivated while waiting for early admission decisions and winter break can be difficult, but by refocusing on your Regular Decision apps and creating a post-decision strategy can help you make it to the Jan. 1 finish line.

We really hope you receive good news from your top-choice schools, but if that’s not the case we are here to help. From advice on a deferral to an analysis of your college list and guiding you through those last few essays, contact us today to learn more about our college counseling services for high school seniors, including our Application Review.