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How to Strategize When You Don't Like the Admissions Decision

You were near the top of your high school class, so you applied to seven top colleges - and got seven rejection letters.

Don't panic. Remember there are many places where you can have a satisfying college experience. Whether you were rejected, wait-listed, or just didn't get into your first-choice college, here is advice from high school counselors on what to do next.

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If rejected: First, says Stephen Singer at the Horace Mann School in Bronx, N.Y., start applying to colleges with summer deadlines and those with open deadlines.

Second, he says, if your high school is a member of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, you can get a May report on four-year colleges whose deadlines have passed, but have not yet filled their freshman class. Get your high-school college counselor to call one of those institutions and see if they can take a late applicant.

If wait-listed: This is a bit more complex. Shirley Bloomquist, chief college counselor at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., says to write a letter to the school. Address it to the specific admissions officer responsible for your region of the country. Explain why the school is your first choice and indicate that if taken off the list you will absolutely come in the fall.

Some colleges rank their waiting lists - but others are random and looking for that extra interest. The counselor may wish to call and find out if the student is really close - or not very. Some top colleges wait-list students that have no hope of getting in.

If rejected, but the other 2,243 four-year colleges won't do: Mr. Singer and Ms. Bloomquist say you can appeal an admissions decision. Public universities are more likely than private ones to accept an appeal.

But appeals rarely succeed unless a student can convey something new. This might include information that you are getting your best grades now, or you just wrote a great paper.

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