As it's early February, many of you will be in that awkward stage of the admissions timelines. You've gathered together your applications, sat the SSAT, survived your interviews, pressed submit between one and fifteen times, and are now waiting for early March to hear back. So what now?
The answer is not 'do nothing.' There is plenty that you can be doing now to put yourself in a good position for this spring. Once you get your results back, the world will seemingly speed up from snail's pace to roller coaster speed. You'll have about a month to revisit all the schools you've been accepted by (which will be covered in another post) and make a decision which one you will attend.
I do not recommend spending the next month researching and reading about your dream school, as you may not end up gaining admission and that will only make you more disappointed. These are some things you can do to pass the time:
1) Make a priority list from first to last of the schools you have applied to based on which you would be most likely to attend if admitted to all of them. For instance: "1. Milton Academy, 2. St. George's School, 3. Middlesex School etc." This is important for two reasons. First, if you have applied to eight schools, and gain admission to them all, you might not have time to revisit each and every school. This list will help you narrow down those schools you are seriously considering, and will give you more time to think about and visit each of those. Second, this list is fluid. Maybe your best friend is admitted to Middlesex, and that results in your moving Middlesex above St. George's on the list. Alternatively, you may attend revisits at both Milton and St. George's, and although Milton was your favorite going in, you might love St. George's and decide to go there instead. Creating and maintaining a list just offers a little more structure for your thoughts.
2) Write your thoughts on each school. Write about those things you liked and those things you did not like. You will find that schools are very different when you visit for interview and when you re-visit after acceptance. When you visit in the fall, you are nervous and trying to convince them that you deserve a place. When you visit in the spring, the school is dedicating all of its resources to convince YOU that you should join them. The tables turn. If you write what you like and don't like before admission, you may find that the things you didn't like in the fall actually aren't a problem once you get to really experience the school in the spring. Your priority list might then change.
3) Reach out to athletic coaches. If you are an avid soccer player, but haven't had the chance to contact the soccer coach, do so now. Admissions officers are hectically reading applications, but that does not mean they will not respond to an email from the soccer coach noting his excitement at the fact a top quality soccer player has applied to the school for next year. Alternatively, you can reach out to the orchestra director to learn more about the music program, and maybe he'll send an email on your behalf as well.
4) Keep working hard in school. Do not think that your application ends when you press submit. Many schools have mid-year reports, or grade updates that are sent into Prep Schools during the file-reading portion of the admissions phase. You do not want to surprise an admissions office with horrific grades as they are making final decisions. Prep Schools do not want to accept students who appear to have eased off the moment they are done with their application. They are looking for intellectually driven individuals who are intrinsically motivated to do well regardless of their position in the Prep School admissions timeline. After admission, you may have the opportunity to focus on some things other than academics (slightly), but schools still request final transcripts from your middle schools and will see your spring term grades.
5) (Maybe) Update your application. Do not update each portion of your application. Prep School admissions officers do not want to know that you've just bought a new pair of shoes, or that you received an "A" on your latest geography quiz. They do want to know if you've won a major award, or if your basketball team won a state championship. If your middle school has a secondary school placement officer (or equivalent), he/she is the first person you should reach out to if you are wondering if one of your accomplishments is update worthy. Often, this officer will write to your prep school following the end of your second term (or at mid-term) with your updated grades, and they may be able to include a few paragraphs about your recent accomplishments. Keep in touch with this officer regarding what you've been up to and with details of any accomplishments of which you are particularly proud.
6) Finally, distract yourself. Once you've done all the things listed above, relax a bit! As I've mentioned, things are about to get very hectic. Regardless of whether you gain admission to your top preferences, you will have to make decisions soon. Take this time to think, reflect on the application process, congratulate yourself for your best effort, and look forward to the chance to revisit some campuses in warmer weather this spring!