Selam everyone! Since rolling decisions’ results are “rolling” in, this week’s post will be about waitlists and gap years! If you’ve applied to a bunch of colleges before, chances are you’ve been waitlisted to a couple of them. Being waitlisted for a college means you’ve been put on a list of applicants to whom a school might or might not offer admission to. Now if this happens don’t be bummed at all since there are certain things you can do to increase your chances of getting off the waitlist. You can raise your grades, you can take part in extracurriculars or internships, and participate in other aspects of the college application. Then you can write a letter to the school’s dean of admissions to talk about the new things you have done since your initial application. Also, it’s important to inform the school that you’re eager to join the college even if you’re on the waitlist since there’s this hidden thinking that you might have gone to another school during regular decisions.

On the other hand, some of you may have decided to take a gap year after graduating to focus on your applications, not getting the colleges you wanted, financial reasons, life crisis, coronavirus, etc. If so, there are a couple of things we want you to be aware of. The first is to be intentional with your gap year. Some of you might be taking this time to focus on aspects of your application you felt could be better. This may be test results, your common app, college essay, supplement essays, extracurriculars, etc. If your common app and essay were your weaker points, more time can be extremely beneficial since you can use it to have as many people offer you feedback and you yourself can workshop it more using the internet/books. With testing, you can take more practice tests to improve and stabilize your results (take caution however that improvement in testing is mostly dependent on you learning from your mistakes rather than simply taking more tests so make sure you’re taking the time to really understand and strengthen your weaknesses). Also, take this time to do further research on the schools you want to go to and what they look for in their applicants and applications so you can further distinguish yourself amongst the applicant pool.

Second, while you’re doing all the above, please make sure to not view your gap year as a setback as it can easily just be a headstart. Getting into college abroad is the beginning while doing well once you’re there requires more effort. If you are fortunate enough to have gotten into college in Ethiopia, have the means to take classes, or simply have access to books or online materials, take full advantage of them especially if they align with your career goals. For instance, you may want to be an economics major and had the chance to get into AAU’s Commerce, take full advantage of your year in Commerce. Or if you have some books just self-study. You may end up going abroad for school later, but you’ll be learning content similar to what you’ve studied in your gap year which means not only can you breathe easier in classes but you can study ahead in the coursework or use that time to focus on extracurriculars, friends, hobbies and/or personal projects. Also, securing opportunities abroad is still somewhat based on luck so the future will remain uncertain. Therefore, doing the above strengthens yourself for opportunities within Ethiopia as well as abroad. So again, be intentional with your gap year as quite a bunch of us have done the same and tried to make good use of it to better our applications and ourselves. Thanks for reading and please take care of yourselves in the coming months!

The Author is a graduate of Columbia’s class of 2020 and is now working at IBM as a Software Engineer.