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January and February are months of waiting for many high school seniors and graduate school applicants. Having laid bare who they are in college essays, they wait for decisions on which schools have accepted them – and which haven’t.

It can be arduous, waiting from day to day. Hopeful applicants may not express that arduousness. They don’t want to betray doubt, vulnerability or weakness. The fear of disappointing others invested in the wait, like parents, can be oppressive.

“What if … ?” scenarios linger, barely veiled behind protective facial expressions as decisions take place beyond the applicants’ control: “What if Aaron gets in, and I don’t?” “What if Dad wants the family tradition at U of M when I really want Ohio State?” “What if I get wait-listed from my favorite?” (Hint: We start a tricky campaign.)

So let me offer some advice both on behalf of and to applicants right now. Having worked with such applicants almost 20 years, I see their faces in my head as I write. They’re smart and savvy, and they see through fake stuff.

Applicants need three things, mostly: support, an open ear and tolerance from parents, siblings, friends, teachers and coaches, among others. Showing stress, they feel, is to be avoided with toughness or silence. They know they’re not in a crisis – they’re just waiting – but doing that is hard, especially during senior year, when everything else is racing at full throttle.

Applicants, please know whatever the colleges decide is a lot about them, not necessarily about you. Colleges have needs for incoming freshmen that neither you nor any of us may ever know. A college’s decision on whether to admit you is not overall society’s judgment of you as a person. Never give up any sense of your own self-worth to a third party. Theirs is a temporary decision involving a certain time and place. You live with you – always.

So be proud of your accomplishments and goals, applicants. When stress hits, refocus the energy of dealing with it into doing your best in all endeavors, especially academic ones. Your wait will end in a month or two. In the meantime, remember there is a best-fit college offer for each of you coming soon. Yes, I know that’s hard to believe sometimes, but please feel comforted that you’re learning a lot about patience and growing up right now by just hanging in there. Good luck to all!

Janis Murray is president of Murray Prep LLC, providing communication training for individuals seeking college admission and career advancement. She works with students and professionals, creating successful strategies, résumés, cover letters, essays, and image and interview/presentation performances. Contact her at jmurray@murrayprep.com.

Janis Murray is president and owner of Murray Prep LLC, providing communication training for students and professionals seeking success since 1999. Based in St. Louis, she currently works with clients in nine states, Europe and Asia.