For PhD students and master’s students applying for the first priority deadline (at Heller, it’s January 15th), the hardest part of the application process is almost upon us: the waiting time. The time between when you press that “Submit” button and when you hear back from the schools you’ve applied to can be madness-inducing.

I get it: waiting is hard. In a society geared around ultra-convenience, we don’t get a lot of opportunities to practice patience. If we’re hungry, we can order a pizza that will be delivered in thirty minutes or less, or microwave dinner in under five minutes. If we want to talk to someone, we can send them a text or give them a call with the expectation that we’ll hear back from them soon. If we want to watch a movie, there’s an endless selection just a few clicks away. And if the pizza gets to us after 40 minutes, or we don’t get a text back in a few minutes, or the movie we really wanted to watch isn’t available… we’re annoyed.

This past year has made me even more aware of how bad many of us, including me, are at waiting… but it’s also forced me to come to terms with the fact that there are many things that I will have to wait for, whether it’s for my recent COVID test results, for travel to be safe again, or for my favorite restaurant to open back up. This is what I’ve learned over the past year about the art of waiting:

Stay busy, but in a productive way.  This might seem contradictory, but waiting doesn’t necessarily mean that you do absolutely nothing. If you’ve submitted your application, chances are, there’s still a lot to do! Some students will put that nervous energy into writing to admissions officers every day asking for an update, but if you can redirect that energy into productive endeavors, you’ll be a lot better off. You can write thank you letters to your recommenders, you can look up how to request official transcripts from your undergraduate institution in case you’re admitted, you can take a free course online or volunteer (even virtually!) to strengthen your resume, you can learn a new skill or develop a new hobby; the goal here should be to do something that will have a positive effect on you no matter the outcome of your admissions decision.

Trust the process. As hard as it can be to give up control, sometimes you have to surrender to the wait. If you’ve submitted your application, have faith in yourself that you’ve done your best work and that now you have to wait for the outcome. You also have to trust the process: if you’re accepted, that’s great, but if not, it may be because it wasn’t the right fit for you.. and that’s a good thing! Getting accepted to a program that isn’t right for you and your goals isn’t a good outcome, either for the school or for you. Know that whatever your decision letter says, you will be okay.

Phone a friend. Even if you do all the things I’ve listed above, you may still need assurance that everything is going to be okay. That’s completely normal! If it all starts to feel like too much, reach out to someone close to you, whether a family member, friend or colleague. You probably know other people applying to graduate school, so why not form a support group? Even if you don’t, you can find forums all over the internet where you can commiserate with people in the exact same boat as you. Find a place where you can vent all of your anxiety and worry, and then repeat steps one and two.

Waiting is built into our lives: when I was a kid, I was waiting to go to college, then I was waiting to graduate, and once I graduated, I was waiting to get a “grown-up” job. Even once you get your decision letter, you’ll then be waiting to start your time at Heller. Since it’s inescapable, why not use this time to learn how to wait well?