Waiting for your US college acceptance letter is tough … here’s how to bide your time.

For a lot of college-bound students, waiting for thick acceptance packages – or skinny rejection letters – from universities is the toughest part of the whole application process. The anxiety can become overwhelming as each day passes with no news.

You don’t want to race home everyday to check the mail for an acceptance letter from your first-choice college! Find out when you can expect your college acceptance letter, and learn what to do while you wait.

Confirm That Your College Application Was Received

Regardless of when you apply, you should hear back from each college with an e-mail confirming they’ve received your university application. This will happen about ten days to three weeks after you’ve sent it.

You can check online to see the status of your application. Specifically:

  • Are there any missing pieces of information, such as transcripts, test scores or recommendation letters?
  • Where is your application in the admissions process?

If you don’t receive any confirmation, call the college immediately!

Your application may have been lost, or a vital piece may be missing. It’s important to find out while the situation can still be corrected, rather than waiting until April. Imagine getting a college rejection instead of an acceptance letter just because the post-office lost a recommendation letter! Don’t let this happen to you.

College Acceptance Letters for Early Applicants

If you applied early (early action, single choice early action, or early decision) and you completed the application process in November, you can start looking for a college acceptance letter starting in early December.

Just in case your early choice school rejects you, finish some applications for regular decision so you don’t have to spend your winter break frantically completing applications and finding teachers to fill out recommendation letters. You also don’t want to have to put your best face forward when you’re still stinging from the pain of early rejection.

How Will International Students Get Their College Acceptance Letters?

Many colleges will e-mail notifications along with letters of acceptance or rejection to international students. Some e-mails say only that a decision has been made and something is in the mail. Others tell you whether or not you’ve been accepted.

Either way, you should hear something by the middle of April at the latest. Decisions on whether you’re attending or not, and whether you’re applying for financial aid, are usually required by May 1. You’ll have at least a couple of weeks to make up your mind.

If you still haven’t heard from a college you want to attend, you can send a letter to other colleges to which you’ve applied requesting an extension. Such requests are usually granted. It’s also worth getting in touch with the college that’s keeping you waiting to find out what the problem is.

What Happens if You’re Wait-Listed?

You might hear in December or April that you’re wait-listed at the college of your choice.

Colleges often want wait-listed students to confirm either by phone or in writing that they want to be kept on the list, so read your wait-list letter carefully.

Being wait-listed isn’t the end of the world. Unfortunately, the worst thing about it is that it means more waiting. Again, if you’ve been wait-listed by your top choice, you can request an extension in writing to other colleges you’re considering. Don’t be afraid to ask for an extension beyond May 1 to make your decision.

Waiting for a college acceptance letter can be a stressful time, but try to relax. Remember: If you’re nervous, you’re in good company. Thousands of people around the world are waiting just like you!