02/12/2013 03:46 pm ET Updated Apr 14, 2013

The Dreaded Wait for College Admissions Decisions

It is that time of the year: the wait after you have submitted your applications and before you hear back from colleges. That infamous time that we all go through as we think about our future and try to stay calm as high school seniors. I will present my thoughts on how to approach the wait and then offer some practical ways to be productive during this time.

How to Think About It

From preparing for SATs, to studying for AP/IB exams, to writing applications, you have spent thousands of hours working towards this moment. Right? Not really. The process is what we have to embrace instead of the result. This may sound cliché, but it is true and we need to embrace it. Through high school you learn time management, study skills, and perspective. Through the college admissions essays, you hope to convey what you have learned and how you have grown. Together, you grow enormously no matter where you end up going to college. You have reflected and thought about yourself seriously over the last few months. That in itself its invaluable. Realize the value in this process.

Practical Tips

The results matter, but you cannot affect them now. Try to focus on schoolwork and your extracurricular activities. You are the top of your game with seniority in school clubs and seasoned test-taking skills. Most probably you are taking AP or IB classes and those require work. Focusing can be tough, so I will provide you with some methods that I used:

1. Ramp up extracurricular activities

Take leadership roles in school clubs or out-of-school activities. Try to be the best you can be in each of the activities you do. Sometimes, this can require planning and you need to run for position at the beginning of senior year. I would highly recommend to run even if you think you cannot handle it for the first half of senior year. It will be worth it during the wait. Start a club if you cannot take such roles.

2. Focus on school work

You have worked so hard the last few years, put it into high gear and finish strong academically. Pay attention to one semester AP/IB courses like Economics and Government that are usually taken senior year. Maybe take classes outside of school to get a head start for college. I was surprised by how many students at Stanford took college-level courses outside of school senior year. It is by no means a requirement, but it definitely keeps your mind off the results.

3. Relax

Maybe the most important strategy, take a deep breath. Go for a run or walk in the evening. Paint. Learn to dance. Do things that you never had the time to do. But keep busy, otherwise you may default to thinking about your applications. Spend time with family, once you go to college you realize how important that is -- it is especially true if you have siblings.

The way your classmates handle the wait can also reveal a lot. See how they handle the stress and try to replicate the good methods they use. Working in group activities is also helpful to some people. Ask your parents for advice -- they are often unnoticed sources of inspiration and help. You can even approach your school counselor to talk about ways to get more involved in school -- it shows initiative.

The wait between submitting college applications and hearing back is a stressful time, but there are some strategies we can use to make it less stressful. First, realize that you have done the hard part: you studied hard and spent time writing your essays. Now the ball is out of your court and you cannot affect the results. Next, try to keep busy, whether that is by engaging in your extracurricular activities, your school work, or in stress-free hobbies. I highly recommend physical activities because they are both healthy and can get you to focus on something light-hearted temporarily. Realize that everyone is going through the same thought processes as you are. For me, this wait was a difficult time and taught me how to deal with stress. Embrace the process and you will be happier, healthier, and more productive.