High School Seniors: Are You Stuck Between Two Dream Schools?

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Seniors-Deciding-College-Admissions

Your admissions letters are in, and the great news is that you’ve been accepted to your two dream schools. But how to choose? With so much on the line and four or more years to look forward to, picking the right college for you matters. This guide will help you make the hard choice without seconding guessing yourself.

 

Step 1: Make a Pros and Cons List

It’s an old trick, but a pro/con list really can help you sort through all those feeling just below the surface. Maybe one school has professors you love and a gourmet cafeteria while the other is a little too far from home. Count up the pros and subtract the cons. Whatever has the highest number wins. Plus, weighing each of these against one another in list form can help you see each of your options outside the flashy brochures.

 

Step 2: Visit Again

It’s not always possible, but if distance isn’t a factor, take another tour of the college. This is especially a great idea to do in the winter when the school isn’t full of flowering trees and students in shorts going to tons of college sponsored activities. If you still have those warm and fuzzy feelings, it’s true love. If you start to find faults on second viewing, it might not be worth it.

 

Step 3: Get Linked to an Alumni

Many schools love hooking you up with access to a recent alumni or graduating students. This person can be a great sounding board on if they think you’ll be a good fit culturally with the school. The trick is to ask for honesty, and you’ll get it. It may take awhile to build up this relationship, but it’s worth it for the valuable input.

 

Step 4: Go Off-Campus

While your schools may be relatively the same, the towns or cities that they are in may be the deciding factor. First, really think about what you love or hate about where you are now. Is city life for you or would you do better in a countryside with loads of nature? In addition, check to see how your school interacts with the town. Good town-and-gown relations is really important for students who want to fit in or explore.

 

Step 5: Check the Cold Hard Facts

Some schools win you over with beautiful campuses and awesome tour guides, but the real deal is in the numbers. How many students complete and graduate the program in four years? What is the job placement rate? How is school safety? All this data should be readily available if you ask an admissions counselor or advisor. If they’re less than forthcoming, be wary.

 

Step 6: Compare the Tuition Costs

It’s no secret that college tuition costs will follow you around for years after graduation in the form of student loans. Most dream schools are just not worth this price tag when another offers you competitive scholarship programs or comes at a lower cost. If money is a concern or at least a factor, your financial aid package should settle the score.

Dealing with Pre-Application Anxiety

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College Application Stress

There are two types of high school seniors right now.  There are the ones who have already applied to their colleges of choice and are waiting to hear back on an early decision, and then there are those that are putting the whole affair off until February.  I was the second kind.  My classmates were deciding over their top three early admissions, and I hadn’t even looked past the first couple pages of my state school’s website.

It wasn’t that I didn’t care.  Actually, quite the opposite.  The whole thing seemed so overwhelming, I didn’t even know where to begin.  K-12 had been pretty straight forward.  I had been told where to be, what to do, and what to learn for the past thirteen years, so college seemed like this insurmountable challenge.  If that last sentence hit a little too close to home, here’s some advice to get you through the next couple months.

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Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself

One of my biggest problems was that I started to overthink everything.  What would I even major in?  Where were all my classmates going?  Would I like the town?  Could I handle the drive there and back during holiday breaks?  Would I live in the dorms, join a sorority, or was I allowed to live off-campus

These are all important questions, but you don’t have to know the answers to all of those right now.  You don’t need to worry about whether the school colors will clash with your skin tone until you’ve explored your options.

Prioritize!

So, you don’t want to overthink things, but you still need to identify what is important to you.  Before you even start seriously looking at schools, think:  Do you want to live close to home?  Do you just have to go to the same school as your best friend or boyfriend? Do you need to go to a top school, or do you want to save money by staying in state? These are important criteria to be aware of when you looking through your options.  Write them down as a list in order of most important to least important.

Of course, it can be difficult to pick a school if you don’t even know what you want to go to school for. With so many options, most freshmen are just as lost as you.  That’s okay!  You’re still a teenager.  Just think about some fields that you might be interested in, and keep those in mind while researching programs.  If you are one of the lucky few that knows that they’re destined for medical school or the world of marketing, then more power to you!

Start Doing Research

If you haven’t already, you need to get to this step ASAP.  The longer you wait, the fewer options you’ll have.  Start by just looking through the basics: costs, location, prestige, population, etc.  How does each school match up to your criteria?  You can successfully eliminate a lot of schools this way.  Recognize that some of your criteria might be at odds with each other.  You might have to give up living in a big city to go to school with your best friend or vise versa. Whenever you come to conflict like that, refer to that list you made, and ask yourself which one matters more.  Which priority is going to make you happier in a year?

You’ve also probably received more than your fair share of university pamphlets.  These can be great resources to see your options, especially which universities are interested in you, but make sure you look deeper.  Don’t decide based on the smiling students on the cover or the football team’s performance.  Instead, scour through their website.  Ask older siblings or friends what they discovered was really important in college.  Visit the campus if possible! Then reevaluate your own list.

Look at Your Finance Options

Paying for college is a big part of the experience.  A university’s affordability should be one of your top concerns.   There are several ways that you can accomplish that.  Scholarships and grants are the best, but they’re also very competitive.  You should apply for these as early as possible!  Next, see if you qualify for any sort of employee reimbursement.  Some schools have specific partnerships, like ASU and Starbucks, and some companies will only provide it under certain conditions.  Obviously, you don’t know where you’ll be working after graduation, but it’s never too early to start looking at future career paths.

Loans are an unfortunate reality for most college students.  If you find yourself among us, make sure that you know your stuff.  Finances are complicated- they have college courses about them!  There’s no shame in admitting you don’t understand the jargon.  Just do yourself a favor and learn what you can about loan lingo.  You’ll make more educated choices, and you won’t be surprised when you get your first bill in five years!

Decide.

Okay, I know that it still seems overwhelming, but you’re ready!  You’ve got all the tools to make a great decision right in front of you. Imagine the weight off your shoulders when you can actually answer your grandma’s holiday questions with zero stress.  This is a big step, but college is a journey.  Picking where you go is important- it’s your first adult decision- but it’s what you do at college will be even more so.  One step at a time!

Home Away from Home: Your Last Summer Before College

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Home away from Home

Hey fellow soon-to-be Freshmen, where is your new home for the fall and spring semesters this year? Whether it is Quinnipiac University (which is where I will be attending), The University of Miami or Arizona State — no matter how far — this is now your home away from home.

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The Hardest Thing about Leaving for School

What is one of the hardest things about going off to college for the first time? Well easiest answer: leaving all your closest family and friends. I am not sure if I am by myself but I know the one person I can’t live without is my sister. My sister and I are inseparable — so how am I going to live without her for a few months!? Great question. Even if my sister and I don’t see eye to eye sometimes, I know she is the one person that I will have to call daily for personal updates — because she is my best friend who will be there for me through every mistake and every heartbreak I will eventually have. I haven’t even said goodbye to her and it breaks my heart knowing that the person I live right next door to will now be so many miles away.

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Then there’s the “I can’t wait to get away from my parents and move away to college already”

As much as sometimes we don’t want admit it, no matter what, your parents are your parents and you love them. Don’t listen to that line that everyone says because they are the ones probably paying for your tuition and giving you everything you probably ever wanted. Even though you’re on your own at school, don’t forget to call your parents. Personal admission: it frightens me that my mom is not going to be my personal alarm clock to wake me up in the morning before school and tell me to get up and out of bed. I know it is embarrassing that my mom still makes my lunch, but what kind of a person would I be if I didn’t have her helping me distinguish right and wrong?

College Moms

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You also can’t forget about your dad who is the one making the practical jokes about mom being stressing out her first born is going off to college. I know I am going to miss the morning update if my favorite sports team won lasts night’s game, or on the presidential debates.

Friendship

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So many things are juggling through not only my mind but the thousands of other incoming freshman about to leave for college. Like, what are my classes going to be like? Are finals going to be hard? What if I don’t make it into a sorority? What happens if my roommate and I don’t get along? What happens if I am home sick? What if I don’t make any friends? Not seeing the same faces everyday from 8 am until 3 pm is going to be a big change…

My best friend is going to be extremely hard to leave behind, but I will also truly miss my newest friends, who are my coworkers from my summer day camp job. I’ll miss laughing, crying and cracking up about the daily ins and outs of working with kids at a summer camp.

Saying Goodbye

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It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over and college is almost beginning! According to BeBe Rhexa, it’s now “its just me, myself and I”.

 

Move-in Series: 1 Month Out (aka Grind-time)

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Move in series 2

We’re back again with our Move-in Series. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, we are providing a step by step guide for high school grads preparing to move into the residence halls. Now that we’re a month away from move-in day, it’s time to knuckle down and take care of business. Follow the eight steps below to make the most of your time at home!

Step 1: Shopping Online

You still have plenty of time to order online and have things shipped before move-in day. Remember to stick to your budget, and pick out a dorm-room style that really speaks to you. Tip: don’t leave this till the last minute! You don’t want to end up settling for a last minute in-store purchase of something essential like your bedding or rug. Also, make sure you know how long items will take to ship in order to keep everything organized.

Be sure to check out OCM for the best deals and giveaways. Enter to win OCM’s Room Goals Instant Win Giveaway and stay tuned for future giveaways! Our blog and social media pages will keep you in the loop with all of the new products as well as college life advice.

Step 2: Professional Tasks

If you’re working a summer job, it’s almost time to put in your two weeks’ notice. Don’t wait until the last couple of days to quit your job. Leave on a good note so that you have a reference to put on your résumé – because perhaps you want to come back next summer and work again. Either way, make the right choice and give at least two weeks’ notice.

The next task is to build or update your résumé. A strong résumé should reflect your academic and professional achievements. You are bound to make connections in college both personally and professionally. So keep that résumé up to date; you won’t regret it! Take a look at our blog for more résumé help and advice.

Step 3: Network

Want to avoid that awkward silence when you first meet your roommate? Reach out to your roommate via text or social media. Before you get lost in conversation about who knows what, be sure to ask them about their plans for move-in day. Matter of fact, there are 11 essential questions that you need to ask. You’ll be spending a lot of time together over the course of the next year or two, so get friendly!

Talk to them about the serious stuff too. Let them know if you have any sort of medical condition in advance – that way, if something were to go wrong, they will know how to help.

Also, don’t be scared to reach out to your fellow classmates! You’re not the only one going off to college for the first time. You’re all in this together so make the most of it. It’s always comforting to see friendly faces in a new environment.

Step 4:  College Life

Do you want to be a part of Greek life? Are you interested in joining a club? Looking for inexpensive places to eat on campus? Start researching places to go and things to do before you arrive. Familiarize yourself with the school’s social media pages. That way, you can stay up to date with all the events going on around campus!

Make a list of things you want to get done freshman year. This is your time to explore, meet new people, and experience all that college life has to offer. Be adventurous and go outside of your comfort zone! Most importantly, don’t let this year pass you by. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to rock climbing — so do some research, pick a date, and take a new friend!

Step 5: Practice Makes Perfect

Let’s be honest, no one likes doing laundry. But you’re going to have to do it in college so you better practice while you’re at home. Continue to hone these skills that you will need to live on your own.

And with one month left, it’s time to take a hard look in the mirror. Take a minute and do a self-evaluation. Are you a messy person? How well do you get along with others? Keep in mind you will be sharing a room with someone new. Don’t be that messy roommate who forgets to do the dishes or take out the trash. Identify your bad habits, and work on breaking them while you still have time!

Step 6: Make a Quick Buck

As you sort through your belongings, put aside items that you no longer need. Sell these items online to make some quick cash. However, make sure you don’t sell off items that you plan on using after college, such as furniture. Consider selling old electronics, clothes, sports gear, and other items you might not need.

Now’s also a good for a short-term, part-time job like dog walking or babysitting. Check local listings and put up flyers around town. You may be surprised at just how profitable this type of work can be.

Step 7: Family & Friends

Don’t forget to spend time with those closest to you! Ask your family to go out for dinner. Plan a road trip with your friends. Whatever you do, make sure you spend some quality time with your family and friends! You might not be seeing them as much once you leave for school, so now’s the perfect time to spend time with them before the big move.

Step 8: College Registration & Other Deadlines

Have you kept up with all the due dates and deadlines for college registration? Keep in mind that scholarships and financial aid may take time to process and require you to manually log-in and accept any rewards. Don’t miss out on potential financial aid or a work study grant because you missed the acceptance deadline! Set reminders and check your college email daily. Take care of any paper work and send it in – you won’t want to be stuck doing this the first week of school.

Keep updating your class schedule as move-in day draws closer. Not sure what classes you should register for? Reach out to an academic adviser for assistance or reference your degree requirements. Figure out what times and professors work best for you. There are plenty of websites that rate professors so check those out before committing to a three-hour night class with one professor. Make sure you plan around your athletics and/or club activities. You might also want to consider scheduling a rest day to break up the week. It will help cut down on stress and can act as a great time to study or catch up with friends.

How to Prepare for High School Graduation

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High School Graduation

It’s here! You’re finally ready to cross the stage and receive your high school diploma. Life couldn’t be any better… right?

Wrong. High school graduation can be a stressful and emotional time in your life. And to commiserate, we’re here to help you out by preparing you for what you can expect for your big commencement day.

How to Prepare for High School Graduation

1.   Get Crafty

There are lots of awesome high school traditions that may require a glue gun, some scissors, and a bit of creativity. Whether you’re decorating your cap or preparing for a senior prank, a bedazzler goes a long way.

2.   Bring Tissues

Graduation can feel like an end, especially with friends that may be going far away for college. The number one tip of being prepared for graduation day is to always bring extra Kleenex. You’re going to need them.

3.   Bring Even More Tissues

Yeah, we just said it, but we need to throw in another plug for tissues. Your parents and other more emotional family members are going to need them too. Don’t make them feel bad for getting a little misty eyed at you in your cap and gown. After all, this is their big day, too.

4.   Plan Your Diploma Dance

Granted, it’s not for everyone. But if you plan on doing a touchdown style dance upon getting your diploma, our best advice is to PRACTICE! Seriously. We would hate for you to end up on a fail reel.

5.   Prepare to Party

Not all of graduation is sobbing or minor freak-outs. Some of it is actually a real celebration! You’ll probably spend most of your summer bouncing back and forth from one graduation party to the next (whether it be yours or your friends) so stock up on “Congratulations” cards and cute outfits. Your summer social life is about to get crazy!

6.   Dress Your Best

Your graduation style should be timeless. After all, your parents are going to put that picture up for the next four years, at least, until your next graduation day rolls around. Don’t be caught wearing something you’ll totally regret.

7.   Don’t Fret the Small Stuff

We can guarantee you won’t graduate knowing everything. And you may not even feel prepared for college in the fall. The secret is that you can’t learn it all in four years, so don’t get upset know if you’re feeling unprepared. Luckily, so is everyone else!

8.   Soak It All In

Lastly, remember that your graduation may be stressful. It may not be perfect. But it’s the time for you to look back and remember all that you have accomplished and all that you’re prepared to do. Congratulations graduate — this is your time to shine!

Let the Countdown Begin! The HS Senior’s Guide to the March Waiting Period

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Hey Seniors: the time is finally here. It’s March, and this month means more than just great basketball, the start of Spring, and St. Patrick’s Day! It’s also time you start the dreaded wait for your college admissions decision. While surviving this countdown month can mean a lot of anxiety and self-doubt, you can get through it by understanding the process. Here’s what you need to know about the March madness that is the college admissions season.

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Every year, colleges receive thousands of applications from around the world hoping to hear back that they’re in. Many admissions offices are flooded and packed come November through January with essays and paperwork or even students doing their interviews.

After February starts, things go quiet, and the real work begins. While you wait patiently (or impatiently), that admissions crew begins sorting students based on their set of guidelines. Every school is different in this process. Some schools favor great recommendations and pull those first while others are sticklers with grades and will only focus on your standardized tests and GPA.

The process of picking the next freshman class is not an easy one. At very selective schools, it can be an emotional and political one at that. It often requires round after round of revisiting one student’s file. Now imagine that times a thousand…there’s a lot to decide!

What You Need to Know

First and foremost, don’t reach out to speed up the process. Admissions offices receive hundreds of calls from anxious students or (worse) their parents looking to see if they can get an answer before the April 1st send-out date. Don’t be that person. Most schools advertise when you’ll get your decision back, so keep that in mind before you ring up your contact.

Secondly on the don’t-do list is to not freak out. Sure, waiting for something as life changing as a college admissions letter is tough and nerve-wracking. But, you can use the month of March to focus on the present. Put your energy into finishing your midterm paper or preparing for a competition. You can even take up a new hobby to pass the time, such as an art class or learning how to play the guitar. Just distract yourself from the potential stress.

Third piece of advice: don’t forget your friends! They’ll need you as much as you need them. One of the best parts about being a senior is having a whole group of people to commiserate with. If you have the time, consider throwing a pre-admissions party where you get together and celebrate each other’s accomplishments before your letters come in. It may just be the pick-up to your self esteem you need to countdown the days.

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Finally, you can also use March to think about the alternatives out there. The truth is that your dream school may not be the right school, and in that case, it doesn’t hurt to have a backup plan. Investigate your local community or junior college, or read up on your safety’s school’s rolling or late admissions policies. Just because you didn’t get your dream school doesn’t mean you can’t make great memories somewhere else. Explore your options!

 

Making it through March is all about the mindset. By understanding the process of admissions, staying away from the temptation of reaching out too soon, and trying to stay positive in the face of silence, you can survive the wait without going crazy.

 

HS Seniors: Will You Finish March Like a Lion or Lamb?

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Have you checked your calendar lately? There’s only a few short months are between you and that high school diploma! While you may be on track now to make it to the finish line, it’s widely known that these last months trip a lot of high school seniors up. So instead of finishing like a lamb barely getting by with the rest of the flock, we break down how you can conquer the rest of your high school career like the lion (or lioness!) that you are.

 

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Avoiding Becoming the Lamb that Barely Finished

You’ve almost certainly heard the term senioritis before. Teachers and parents use it to describe seniors who are just squeaking on by. You probably know one or two friends who fit this description already. They’re lazy, moody, and just can’t seem to care about anything school-related.

Many afflicted with senioritis think they are immune because they have already met the requirements for graduation. Your second semester (or final two quarters) of school may be the time it gets worse. This is because many seniors figure out their finish line GPA and will have an idea how to graduate with the minimum needed.

 

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For some college-bound seniors, senioritis kicks in when acceptance letters start to pour in. After all, once you are accepted to your dream school, why do you really need to work hard in high school?

However, here’s the cold hard truth about senioritis: it spreads! That’s right — it’s super contagious among other seniors. You see one person start to slowly let things go, and you want to do the same thing – that’s where the whole lamb idea comes in. Following that lazy flock is the easy thing to do, so much so that you may find yourself suffering from senioritis in your college classes!

How to Own High School Like a Lion

There’s so many reasons why you should avoid the lamb trap. For one, your final GPA does matter. Many colleges check your graduation GPA to ensure you didn’t slack off or completely fall apart in those last few months. If you’re on the lookout for scholarships or college funding, a slipping GPA will not help your chances of impressing an awards committee.

Then, consider the backfiring risk of acting like a lamb. If you give yourself too much wiggle room to slack off, you might just find yourself stuck in summer school and graduating later. And for college, that could mean not starting in the fall like planned, or even losing your admissions spot!

Instead, you need to find and release that lion inside of you. The lion knows his place is at the top of the pack, someone to be looked up to and admired. The lion is the person that impresses on their resumes for jobs or scholarships. They build up awards and honors instead of slacking off and becoming prey.

 

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Lions are motivated, driven, and determined. They understand follow-through, including work that isn’t exactly the most fun (like a final paper or on mandatory volunteer hours). They know not to give up on what is important to them because not having a skill, such as being able to solve a difficult trigonometry problem, may come back to haunt them in the future. Lions also set goals and milestones that can be tracked and crossed off so even when time is winding down, they still can see their progress building rather than falling.

Lions are the ones that hunt the lambs, who make better impressions, who rule the final weeks and months of school. Finishing like a lion instead of a lamb ensures that you stay in front of your academics while maintaining the stellar student status you already have. Instead of becoming the lamb with senioritis, strive to become the lion ready to rock the next challenge that comes their way.

 

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The 10 Emotions Everyone Has When Waiting for Early Decision

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Have you been sitting, waiting for the mailman every day? Once he’s gone, do you pore over every single envelope suspiciously? If this sounds like you, you’ve probably been waiting to hear back from your dream college, the college you loved so much you applied for it early via early admissions or early decision. The wait is certainly the hardest part; let’s commiserate.

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  1. Confidence

Your applications are out, your essays are complete, and even your recommendations from that less than reliable teacher is submitted. Your go-getter attitude is sure to win over your dream school. All you have to do now is sit back and relax…

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  1. Dreaming

The first few days after applying, you’re probably still in that honeymoon daze. Your love for this college is strong, and soon you’ll be able to wear your university’s colors on your chest for the world to see! You can just taste the tailgating food and the old library books now.

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  1. Panic

It’s been two weeks. Two weeks. I mean, how long does it really take to go through an application? A week? A few days? What if you filled it in wrong? What if you forgot to write your name? Did you apply for the wrong school?!?!

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  1. Nervousness

There’s still time to get those admissions letters… but maybe it’s time to talk about backup plans too. Checking out the deadlines of other, safer schools is totally normal.

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  1. Regret

Wow! Admissions fees really add up. $50 here and $75 there can make a huge dent on your wallet. It’s safe to say that you’re probably regretting not holding off until you were absolutely, completely, and totally sure that this school wasn’t the best choice out there.

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  1. Terror

It’s been so long! What happens if you don’t get in? Do you get shunned? Figuring out how to navigate rejection before it even happens can send you into a tailspin. Don’t freak yourself out just yet.

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  1. Jealous

Your best friend got into their choice school, and your arch rival is celebrating by bragging to everyone he/she meets. Why do they get all the fun while you’re still waiting for that big envelope to arrive?

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  1. Contentment

It’s time to get zen. Take up meditation, sip some herbal tea, and/or listen to peaceful mountain sounds. You’ll want to do everything and anything you can to learn how to be content with the agonizing last few days of the wait.

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  1. Nervousness (Again)

It’s here! It’s D-Day! You wait all day by your mailbox with your fingers crossed. Parents and bestie are on speed dial. Now if only the mailman could arrive on time today!

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  1. Joy!

The big envelope! You did it! Not only did you survive the wait to be admitted, you got in before all the other applicants. Congrats! You’re going to college!

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