The Waiting Game: An Open Letter to Applicants Awaiting Regular Decision

By Jared Griffin 2021-02-19

Athena speaks to the youth she consuls

To whom it may concern,

What a troubling time of year.

Each day, from my place atop Olympus, I watch, with my owl’s-eye view, as undergraduate applicants pass through the trials of early triumph and defeat. Happy faces, overjoyed and cherubic, like Cupid. But also sad ones, long, bluer than Krishna’s.

My age-old heart goes out to them.

For indeed it’s that point in the season. As winter presses on, bringing freezing weather, shorter days, and depression (this time exacerbated by the worst plague since the Spanish Flu), some may celebrate acceptance to their dream schools while many face deferral, or worse, flat-out rejection.

Seeing a few win while others suffer must be particularly disheartening. Now that apps have been submitted, deferral letters written, and interviews given, you have to start asking yourself the perennial question:

What else can I do?

Well first, don’t take it personally. If you were denied or deferred, you simply may not have been what they needed at the time. In case of the latter, at least you’re not out of the running. Like in many romances, this status may even change once they know what the full pool looks like for RD (Regular Decision). Remember that COVID-19 has created much uncertainty for all sectors, education more than most. Instead of dwelling on your apparent powerlessness, direct your energies toward your locus of control:

  • Maintain and even increase your academic grades (not to mention your character)—almost all offers are conditional, and nothing’s more appealing than an upward trajectory
  •  Develop ongoing/new extracurricular projects—consistency and continuity demonstrate genuineness, depth, curiosity
  •  Update schools accordingly (and sparingly)—admissions offices want to see worthwhile news, the highlights, but not every detail
  •  Verify whether there were any issues or mistakes with your submitted apps—occasionally, an overlooked error such as a(n un)checked box can cost an applicant major points
  •  Demonstrate continued interest via (virtual) tours, college fairs, and other programming—schools sometimes keep tally on attendance of and participation in these offerings


Other than that, you wait.

You make the time to relax. You pat yourself on the back for surviving such an intense rite of passage. You hang out with your friends (socially-distanced, of course), enjoy the company of your family, as these truly may be the final days you get to spend with them like this. For no one knows how long their thread will spin—whether they’re at the edge of their rope, whether they’ll be cut from the team. I’ve seen some of the luckiest make it in the final round, in the final hour—some of the brightest stars flame out in the end. Thus, our best hope is to enjoy the moment, as it should be, shining bright like Roman candles.

It is my sincerest hope that the Fates and Fortuna move in your favor. That you attain the greatness you seek, whether or not it is among the pantheon that seems to call you like a siren. As with my demigod half-brother, Hercules, it is in your nature to strive, to dream, to never give up or give in. At our Temple, my cousin, goddess of Victory, only celebrates one side, but you mustn’t be deterred by defeat. It’s part of the game. The great agon of life. Remember, countless Olympians have survived this for ages. Surely, so can you.



Read: On being waitlisted by your dreams