Stages of waiting to hear back about your application

Illustration of a stressed out girl next to a stack of books
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From research to journalism to internships, you’ll find a lot of opportunities to get involved in extracurricular activities in college. However, you’ll have to cross one bridge to take up pretty much any opportunity: the application. Between the moment you hit the submit button and hear back from the organization, you may have noticed that there are a few routine stages you go through whether it’s an application for an internship or club. 

Stage 1: Feeling hopeful about a new opportunity

The possibility of taking up a new opportunity is exciting. You get to meet new people, learn new things, work on new projects and add a new item to your resume. So you take this application thing seriously. You check your responses, editing them to perfection. After checking them multiple times, you, at last, send off your application. You’re filled with hope as you envision the email informing you that you are accepted. Revel in this feeling for as long as you can; this may be the only stage in the waiting process in which you experience positive emotions.

Stage 2: Repeatedly checking your email every 20 seconds

The uncertainty of the application decision can be excruciating. Whether it’s an opportunity you’ve wanted for a long time or one you decided to apply to at the last minute, you can probably relate to the feeling of discomfort as you ponder the outcome. To ease that discomfort, you take a quick peek at your email, again and again, each time hoping that you see a new unread notification at the top of the screen. The disappointment of not receiving the desired update only feeds your anxiety, making you check your email even more compulsively. It’s hard to get out of this feedback loop. Try willing yourself to stop, and when that doesn’t work, use a website blocker.

Stage 3: Preparing yourself for the potential rejection

If you thought your inner critic was ruthless when you were filling out the application, wait until you get to this stage of the waiting process. This is the part where you mentally pore over the tiniest mistake you’ve made in your application — awkward phrasing in your essays, incorrect resume format, inadequate passion for the role in your cover letter. You think of the competition you’re up against and tell yourself that there’s no way you’re getting accepted. You mentally prepare for the rejection letter you could receive by telling yourself that your schedule is already jam-packed, so you don’t need another commitment. Or that there are plenty of other opportunities you can apply to or that you can always try again in the next application cycle. The more excuses you give yourself, the better the rejection will feel.

Stage 4: Getting the long-awaited email

The application decision is finally starting to occupy a smaller headspace. But then, when you check your inbox one fine day, you see the email containing your application decision waiting for you. A feeling of anxious curiosity kicks in as you frantically click on the email. At this point, you’re overjoyed as you receive news of acceptance, somewhat happy upon hearing that you’ve been selected for an interview or disappointed at the rejection. 

Whatever the decision, you still get to be proud of putting yourself out there and relieved that the wait has finally come to an end. Congratulations, all the best for your interview — or better luck next time! 

Contact Vaidehi Bulusu at [email protected].