The days when college decisions came in a nice, fat envelope are long gone; these days, life-changing information comes virtually — which means that it can be accessed anywhere, anytime. And that can have dramatic consequences.

The New York Times spoke with Marie Bigham, a college counselor in Texas, who offered up tips for opening up those virtual envelopes — and then we added a few of our own:

  • Wait until you’re home. This one is tough; everyone wants the instant gratification. But just think about how it would feel to receive bad news in front of everyone — and then to have to go through the rest of your day with that on your mind. “Give yourself the chance to do this privately and without an audience,” Bigham cautions.
  • Don’t go nuts on Facebook. Wait a few hours — or a few days! — so the emotions can settle before you post your raw feelings on Facebook/Twitter/whatever. Bragging about good news or griping about bad news to your entire social network can have unforeseen consequences (besides irritating your friends); Bigham notes that colleges might notice that nasty comment you posted about their decision to waitlist you.
  • Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. This only leads to competition, frustration, and resentment. “Colleges make decisions on applications for a wide variety of reasons, but they do so on individual applicants. Nothing good can come from trying to compare another candidacy to your own, even if you think you know why someone was or was not admitted,” college counselor Jeff Durso-Finley told the Times.
  • Have some perspective. When everyone at school is freaking out about early decision, it can be easy to feel as though if you don’t get into this one particular school, you will absolutely die. But, well, you won’t. Think of it this way:  this time next year, you’ll be hunkered down in some impressive university library, griping about exams with all your new college friends. The particular school doesn’t matter as much as you think it does; you’ll be in college, and it’ll be awesome.
  • Live in the moment. Hey, it’s the holidays! Don’t let yourself live too much in the past (mentally rewriting your application essay) or the future (daydreaming about what it’ll be like to finally live away from home). Resist the urge to spend your entire winter break browsing college websites; instead, enjoy time with your friends and family, and savor what you have right here and right now.