If you applied to study at a U.S. college in the fall, the first few months of the new year will be crunch time, as the acceptance and rejection letters begin rolling in. However confident you feel in your applications, this can be a tense time.
There are ways international students can spend their time productively while waiting for decisions from U.S. colleges – distraction from those nagging worries about where you're going to end up can be useful.
1. Practice language skills: If English is not your first language, start trying to immerse yourself in it. Watch TV shows and films, read books and listen to music in English.
Most U.S. colleges will require at least a comprehensive grasp of American English, but if it's not something you speak fluently, building on your vocabulary can only be a help.
2. Do fun research: Begin to bury yourself in information about your prospective destinations. Get in touch with some current students about what it's actually like to live and work on these college campuses and maybe learn some local trivia.
When I was waiting to hear from my colleges, I emailed an exchange student studying at the University of California—Berkeley every day, flooding her with questions.
3. Consider your alternatives: It can feel horrible to think about not making it through a college application process, but prepare for that scenario to make sure you don't have a meltdown.
Not getting a place at a school means you must reassess your options, so you can quickly make a decision about your next move. The odds are you will have submitted more than one college application.
Think about what it will be like if you are accepted at your second or third choice. Weigh the pros and cons of studying there. Every college will have something unique about it, so try not to think of it as a backup.
Do be certain in the choice you make, because whether you are taking a period of study abroad, or a full-time undergraduate or graduate degree at a U.S. college, your time there will involve significant financial investment. It is a commitment and too much of your time will go into it for you to simply settle for a place of which you are unsure.
If you decide that you don't want to attend your second or third choices, consider deferring and reapplying for the following year, or studying at a university in your home country.
Think about what you want to achieve in the time before you apply again. Perhaps set yourself some goals that will make your next application stronger.
You could choose to get some work experience, do some volunteering or take some time to travel. Use your time productively so you don't face disappointment again.
If you are working on an exchange program, speak with the study abroad office at your home college to get some advice on your next steps. If you are applying independently, get in touch with admissions at the college to see if you can receive feedback on your application.
[Understand what to know before transferring to a U.S. college.]
4. Get ready for paperwork: Whether or not you know yet if you'll be traveling to America, start taking the necessary steps to apply for your student visa. This is a long and often complicated process and there's nothing worse than being offered a place to study only to realize you won't be able to take it because you missed a visa appointment!
The most important thing you can do is stay positive and proactive through the next stages of your time as an international student.
This can be a busy and occasionally frustrating time, but once you land in America, you will find the effort was entirely worth it.
Emily Burt, from the United Kingdom, studied at the University of California—Berkeley on an exchange program. She will graduate from the University of East Anglia in 2014 with a bachelor's in American literature and creative writing.