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By Grace McDermott, Walter Payton

It’s that time of year – no, not the holidays. It’s college admissions season!

This is a very exciting and apprehensive time for many high school seniors, lasting from December to March (and for some even longer). While it feels great when one of your friends gets into their dream school, the reality we have to face is that not everyone is going to get a “yes.”

There’s no easy way to ask someone whether or not they were accepted somewhere, and it’s also tough to decide whether or not to tell other people where you were accepted. There are going to be unavoidable awkward conversations, but here are some tips to dissolve a little bit of that awkwardness.

1. Don’t be there when the letter or email gets opened

Maybe if it’s your best friend or sibling or someone you’re really close with, this is okay, but as a general rule, don’t be there for the letter opening – even if both of you are 100% sure they are going to get in. While it’s great to celebrate with your friend, it becomes very uncomfortable very fast if they are denied or even deferred.

2. Don’t open your letters together

If one of you gets in and the other doesn’t, it’s not fun for either of you. The person who was accepted wants to celebrate, but feels like it isn’t appropriate. The person who didn’t get accepted feels like they can’t be sad, because their friend just got in. Even if you’re very close, letter-opening should be something personal or something you do with your family.

3. Don’t ask, wait for them to tell you

You’ll find out where your friend is going sooner or later, and if they’re getting a ton of questions about a school they wanted to go but got denied from, they get down on themselves more and more each time they have to answer. When they’re comfortable with sharing their admissions status, they’ll do it. Your impatience to know where your friend was accepted has to take a backseat to their own self-confidence and emotions.

4. If you’re REALLY dying to know, ask someone who might know – a best friend or significant other

They’ll know before anyone else does, and if you’re friends with this person’s group, then you can ask one of them rather than asking the person themselves. This makes it easy to congratulate them if they get accepted, and easy to be tactful if they are denied.

5. Be appropriate and don’t extend the conversation longer than it needs to be

Give your condolences and move on by either changing the subject completely or by asking your friend where else they are considering. Don’t go on and on about how you were sure they would get in, and don’t bash the school for their acceptance policy. Offer your support if it’s needed, but be kind and know your place.

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