There’s a meme going around that says, “January is the Monday of months”. That cracks me up because I’m not sure what that means, exactly. Does it mean the month feels longer than other months? Does it mean it’s the month that takes a while to get back into after the holidays? And, do most people feel that way?
Like with everything in life, what it means depends on how we interpret it, based our own perspective. For example, I LOVE January, since it’s the month of my birth!
Poor January also gets a bad rap in the world of college admissions as the “Black Hole” of months.
It’s the place where the application seems to disappear without a trace, while families sit in limbo and await the news. Yes, to paraphrase the late, great Tom Petty, the waiting can certainly be the hardest part of the process, but do most students feel that way?
Generally, no. In talking with current seniors, they actually feel pretty “chill” about the whole thing. Sure, there are schools they are waiting to hear from, but they say that "there isn’t anything they can do", it “is what it is” in terms of when they will find out and there’s a ton of other stuff going on, so they don’t have time to think about it too much.
This was quite a relief to hear!
I also asked the seniors I worked with last year and they expressed similar thoughts. Sure, having the philosophical perspective of time and distance helps, but they all said it "really wasn't that bad". It helped to have applied to a range of colleges where they were able to "find out about some acceptances early and know they were going somewhere". That helped ease the initial stress. And, with each passing day, "it was more in the back of my head and not a pressing matter". As they focused on the events of their senior year, they even "kinda forgot about it" and it was more "out of sight, out of mind".
It turns out, our kids have it right. In reading articles on the psychology of waiting, ruminating over something we have little or no control over just increases anxiety.
And that makes sense.
The less control we feel we have over an outcome, the more we may feel anxious or uncertain. Like when we’re sick. It is definitely NOT fun, but we know what we need to do to get well and we do it. It’s often WAY worse to watch our loved ones feel awful. And that seems to be consistent with waiting on application results.
So, as parents and family members, what can we do to get through this?
One of the best ways to lessen anxiety and stress is to focus on the present and make the most of the time you have together, as this article suggests. Or, in the wise words of one of my former students:
“...for anyone in the waiting period, I would say to have fun and celebrate”! Cherish the time you have together and focus on the "what is" The “what will be” will be here soon enough!