What to Do While You Wait to Hear Back

Post by: Kate Hoeting, MTS ‘21 and Graduate Assistant in the Office of Admissions 

We’ve come to that much anticipated time of the year! You’ve finally submitted that application that you worked so hard on, and now you’re sitting here thinking, “Now what?” It might help you to know a bit about what we’re doing on the other end: helping recommenders get their letters in, clarifying transcript details like transfer credits, and making sure all the uploaded documents are legible. We go through each application page by page to ensure that it follows the requirements, and we follow up with applicants if we need more information. Our Admissions Committee takes a holistic approach, which means that we consider all aspects of every application in our decision-making process. Because we receive hundreds of applications, we need time from early January to mid-March to review them in a way that honors your hard work! 

Even though we’re busier than ever, we know that this time can be a stressful waiting period for applicants. Here are 12 tips to help you be relaxed and ready for mid-March: 

Photo courtesy of JONATHAN BEASLEY, HDS Office of Communications 
  1. Celebrate that you turned in your application! You finally finished your application, and that’s nothing to sneeze at! Let’s be honest: writing about yourself in your statement of purpose can be a daunting task. Well, now you’re done with it! 
  1. Bet you didn’t see this tip coming: do some self-care. You can start by making a list of things you like to do to relax like meditating, going outside, or watching some good ol’ Netflix. Then if you feel overwhelmed, you can go back to your list for ideas. 
  2. Talk to friends who are going through the same thing. There’s power in camaraderie, so get together with other people who are waiting to hear back from a job, a school, or any other kind of program 
  3. Apply for financial aid! By now, you should have already received an email from the HDS Office of Financial Aid containing the financial aid application. If you didn’t get the email, check your spam folder and then email financial_aid@hds.harvard.edu. We encourage every single applicant to apply for financial aid! 
  4. Thank your recommenders. Now that you’re not so busy with submitting your application, let your recommenders know that you appreciate their help and guidance. 
Photo courtesy of KRISTIE WELSH, HDS Office of Communications 
  1. Tune in for a webinar with our Graduate Assistants in February! The webinar will consist of a short presentation from current students about life at HDS, followed by a Q&A session. Keep your eyes peeled for an email with the details. 
  2. Start thinking about the logistics of what it might be like to go to HDS. Have you talked with your partner or family about the possibility of moving to the Boston area? Remember that if you are admitted, you will only have a month to commit, so it’s best to take this possibility seriously. 
  3. Consider whether you’d be interested in doing the Summer Language Program (SLP). Admitted students can enroll in SLP—an 8-week course that covers multiple semesters of language instruction—the summer before they matriculate. Remember that if you’re admitted and receive financial aid, you will not receive your aid until after the semester begins, so participating in SLP may require some financial forethought. 
  4. Decide if you would like to attend HDS’ Open House for Admitted Students. At the Open House, prospective students can speak with current students, meet faculty members, attend panels about HDS, and take tours around campus. Because the Open House will take place at the end of March, you will not have a lot of turnaround time between receiving your decision letter and needing to arrange travel plans. You can be proactive by thinking about the logistics of traveling to Boston now. 
Photo courtesy of JONATHAN BEASLEY, HDS Office of Communications 
  1. If you feel like you can’t stop thinking about your application, you can try scheduling a time to worry about it. Then when you’re outside of that stress-devoted time, try to let those thoughts go. It sounds silly, but it can help you let out steam while setting a limit to your angst.  
  2. Get connected with a current student. By emailing ask_students@hds.harvard.edu, we can put you in touch with an HDS student whose interests match yours. They’ve been through this waiting period, so you can ask how they coped! 
  3. Once it gets down to the wire (aka March), and it seems like every text message alert could be an email from HDS, turn off your notifications or take some time away from your phone. No matter how many times you hit that refresh button, that email isn’t going to come any faster. Tucking your phone away is easier said than done, but it might give you some much needed space away from the idea of application decisions. 

Remember that everyone will receive their decision at the same time in mid-March. In the meantime, take care of yourselves! 

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