The Wait

04/02/2013 10:51 am ET | Updated Jun 02, 2013

We've reached the time of year that colleges start mailing out their decision letters. I am so anxious to find out if my hard work has paid off. So far, I have only heard back from three of my six schools -- Loyola University Chicago, Marquette University, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign -- all acceptances! On the day I got my first acceptance, my mom picked me up from school. When I got in the car, she told me I had received a letter from Loyola. "Well, did you open it?" I asked her. She said she hadn't, that it was my letter to open. That car ride home was the slowest and most nerve-wracking I have ever experienced. As soon as my mom parked, I bolted out the car door and sprinted to my house. I made a beeline to the kitchen, where the letter was waiting for me. I opened it and read the first sentence: "Alberto, congratulations and welcome to your Loyola Experience -- Class of 2017!"  

To be honest, though, as exciting as it is to have these acceptances and know for sure that I will go to college, none of these schools are my top choices. The schools I'm dying to hear from are University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Northwestern and Harvard. So now I have to wait until April 15, which is very stressful! During this period of uncertainty, taking a break helps keep me from getting overwhelmed by the waiting. Most of the time, I read. This helps me relax and forget (for a little while) about all homework and scholarships and decision letters. I prefer fantasy novels or mysteries, but I'm really not that picky. Right now I'm reading The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Sometimes I get so caught up in the story that I forget it's not actually happening -- and that I have about four weeks until I hear from Harvard!

Reading is a good solitary activity, but being around my family also helps me relax. Ever since late August when I started locking myself in my room to work on my college applications (they seemed endless at the time!) and then on the scholarship search (which sometimes seemed impossible), my family probably hasn't seen as much of me as they would have liked. Now that I'm not so busy with those things, I have more time to spend catching up with them. We usually play games, like Rummikub or dominos, or watch a movie. It feels good to take a load off from all the hard work I've been doing and to spend quality time with my loved ones. Of course, as much as they help me relax, they are also the ones who stay on me the most to get all my work done. Most recently, they helped me stay on track with scholarship applications, always reminding me of due dates, like for the Loyola Cristo Rey Scholars Program, which I had to turn in by March 1.

Being with my family is great, but I need time away from them too. That's where my friends come in. At times during the college app process, we've all been so busy that we haven't been able to hang out. But now we have more time, so we've been catching up. Usually we go to the movies, or go bowling, or go out to eat (or sometimes all three!). And even though we're pretty sick of application stuff by now, we can't help from talking about it -- we're all so curious about where we'll end up, whether it's miles apart or at the same school.

So how do you stay focused and not get overwhelmed in the final weeks of the college application process?