DOES IT BOTHER YOU: An update has been posted to your application! Just keep waiting!


Illustration by Isabelle Farina

 As I tackled the horrid process that is college admissions, my older sister would try to console me by constantly repeating the phrase “It’s all arbitrary.” I would whine that it had better not be arbitrary because I have dedicated excessive amounts of time attempting to perfect my transcript and resume, and the colleges had better be able to see that. Unfortunately, my sister could not have been more correct. The everlasting confusion from COVID-19 mixed with the overall increase in applicants resulted in a very painful, frustrating, seemingly random college application process for the class of 2022. 

The real torment of all things college begins in anticipation of receiving a response about your application. To avoid this drawn-out suffering, the majority of students, especially this year, have decided to apply Early Action or Early Decision. The whole point of these options is to receive an answer as early as possible, however, college admissions have completely dismantled this process with two notorious words: ‘Deferred’ and ‘Waitlisted’. 

This year, colleges received such an abundance of applications that they did not even holistically review every student’s application as they promised. Unless you had an exceptional test score or chose to apply test optional, your application was temporarily disregarded and you were deferred. Students were promised an answer, but then that answer was “Actually, you have to wait.” This plagues students with the insecurity of questioning the strength of their application, when in reality there just wasn’t enough time or people to review all the applications. All of the added elements intended to strengthen your application like sports, clubs, honors societies and volunteering went out the window if you provided a test score and it did not monumentally surpass the other applicants. The anxiety that was supposed to be relieved in January was then transformed into delight or depression many months later in April. 

However, there is another twist. In addition to accepted or rejected, there is the third dreaded response of waitlisted. After already making students wait several months for a response, once again they are told to just keep waiting. Colleges attempt to sugarcoat this tortue with worthless claims of “It has nothing to do with your credentials, we just don’t have enough room for you,” as if that makes hearing the news any easier. But the worst part about this round of waiting is that you must commit to a different college just in case you never get into your waitlist option. Being waitlisted generates a flurry of confusion, making students hold out false hope, fantasizing that there is still a slight chance they could attend their dream school. 

Colleges need to stop delaying students’ decisions and just give them an answer. If they don’t qualify, tell them that. There is absolutely no need to string them along for months and feed into unrealistic expectations with silly terms like ‘deferred’ and ‘waitlisted’, when they could just tell you yes or no. I understand when there are 50,000 or more qualified applicants, making a decision is increasingly difficult, but that is quite literally the admissions committee’s job. They are hired to make a decision, not to tell students to just keep waiting. And if they really can’t make a decision, at least don’t promise a decision as early. 

From start to finish, the entire college process is a blur of suffocating anxiety and harsh competition. Refusing to give students a clear answer about their applications is simply not right, and certainly does not relieve any of these emotions. Although my college process has finally come to a close, I wish all the best to the Class of 2023 and hope they will not be bombarded with the frustrating roadblocks of “deferred” or “waitlisted” the way my classmates and I had to.