When I was a high school senior, college decisions were sent out by mail. A thin envelope usually indicated bad news, while a thick envelope was a reason to rejoice. At the time, I didn't know anything about how to select the right colleges to apply to, and my lack of knowledge led me to receive six thin envelopes in a row.
I felt despair at the thought that I may not be attending college anywhere. I was a strong student and wasn't expecting to be turned down by some colleges I considered safe bets.
You are not alone if you feel confused, anxious, and sad about your college admissions denials.
So what should you do?
1. Avoid the urge to understand why you weren't accepted.
As long as your application was complete, you met the minimum requirements for admission, and your GPA, course rigor, test scores (if provided) were not below the 25th percentile of accepted students at the college, it is improbable that you will find an apparent reason you weren't accepted.
When a college receives more applications from qualified students than it has room for, it selects applicants based on how well they meet its institutional needs. For example, one year, a college may desire an applicant from North Dakota to ensure its students represent all 50 states. The following year, it may need a bassoon player to fill a vacancy in the orchestra. It may have too many applicants interested in majoring in computer science and not enough interested in studying linguistics.
It's impossible to know each college's current needs. You may have been a strong applicant and simply didn't meet the precise criteria the college was looking for in applicants this year to narrow down their pool of qualified candidates.
2. Grieve the loss.
It's frustrating to have done everything you thought was needed to get admitted to a particular college and still receive a denial. It's normal to feel upset, especially if you thought you had a good chance of acceptance and had to give up other things to pursue this goal. You may have dreamed of attending college X for as long as you remember. Your closet might be full of its collegiate apparel, and you cheer for their football team. Maybe your parents and grandparents graduated from it, and your best friend will be attending. Mourn the loss of the idea you had for your next four years. Remind yourself that your identity is comprised of several parts, and where you attend college is just one part of it.
3. Focus on what you have control over.
You still have choices, so it's time to get to work making important decisions and taking steps towards reaching your goals. Yes, you still can reach your goals; you may just need to reenvision how you will get there. Let this quote from Steve Maraboli sink in:
"Every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better.”
If you have been accepted by at least one college, take steps to fall in love with it if you haven't already. Remember what you liked about it that led you to apply. Learn as much as you can about it. Attend admitted students' day and start connecting with other incoming first-year students. Talk to current students about what they like about the school. Find classes you want to take and clubs you want to join.
Success in college is primarily attributed to what you make of your experience. Many highly successful people, including Tina Fey, Tom Hanks, and Barack Obama, were turned down by their dream colleges but made the best of it. You can read about a few of them here.
If you have not been accepted by any college, you have at least three choices:
You can apply to other four-year colleges still taking applications for entry this fall. There are over 600 colleges that have application deadlines after April 1. A list of these follows this article.
You can start at your local community college, which is also very likely to cost less than your original plan.
You can take a gap year and apply to college again in the fall.
After weeks of not knowing whether I would be attending college anywhere, I received a fat envelope from a college that met my family's full financial need. My story had a happy ending, and so can yours.
The path to success is rarely a straight line. You can be successful no matter where you attend college. Make the choice that is right for you.
COLLEGES WITH LATE APPLICATION DEADLINES*:
Clark Atlanta University
College of Mount Saint Vincent
Hult International Business School – U.S. & U.K.
Illinois State University
New College of Florida
Plymouth State University
Seton Hall University
SUNY College at Oneonta
SUNY Maritime College
SUNY Stony Brook University
The College of New Jersey
The University of Utah
University of North Georgia
University of South Florida
Western Connecticut State University
April 15-30 American University of Beirut (AUB)
Florida Atlantic University
Loyola University New Orleans
Massachusetts Maritime Academy
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
St. Thomas University, Canada
University of Kentucky
University of Michigan - Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
May 1 Augusta University
Bard College Berlin Bishop's University Bowling Green State University Cairn University
Central Connecticut State University Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science Clemson University College of Saint Benedict Colorado State University Delaware State University Emory & Henry College
Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU) Georgia State University Gustavus Adolphus College Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) Iona College Johnson & Wales University-Charlotte Johnson & Wales University-Providence Le Moyne College Lees-McRae College Lincoln University of Pennsylvania Michigan State University Mississippi College Morningside University Saint John's University (MN) Saint Louis University - Madrid Campus (Spain) Samford University Southern Illinois University Carbondale St. Edward's University Stockton University SUNY Cortland SUNY Oswego The University of Texas at Dallas United States Sports Academy University of Central Florida University of Iowa University of Nebraska-Lincoln University of Northern Colorado University of Tampa Westfield State University
Benedict College - Columbia, SC
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville The University of Arizona Underwood International College, Yonsei University Temple University, Japan Campus Anglo-American University in Prague Seattle University University of Saint Katherine Indiana University Bloomington University of North Texas UCAM Universidad Católica de Murcia University of Houston
DePaul University DePauw University
Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL)
Indiana State University
Jacobs University Bremen
Keene State College
Maryland Institute College of Art
New Jersey City University
North Carolina A&T State University
The University of Texas at San Antonio
University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)
University of Massachusetts Lowell
University of Missouri
University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV)
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
University of St Andrews
Wilkes Honors College of FAU
Chicago State University
Franklin University Switzerland
University of Missouri-Kansas City
Western Michigan University
Saint Martin's University
Worcester State University
Savannah College of Art and Design
William Paterson University of NJ
University of Southern Mississippi
Cardiff Metropolitan University
University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol
Cornish College of the Arts
St Mary's University, Twickenham, London
University of Aberdeen
University of Stirling
Art Academy of Cincinnati
Augustana College (Illinois)
Bay Path University
Columbia College (SC)
Dharma Realm Buddhist University
Mary Immaculate College
Maynooth University (Ireland)
Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver)
Middle Tennessee State University
Missouri University of Science and Technology
National Louis University
Northern Kentucky University
Saginaw Valley State University
Southeast Missouri State University
St. John Fisher College
The University of West Florida
University College Dublin
University of Limerick
University of Minnesota Rochester
University of North Florida
Warren Wilson College
Webber International University
University of Akron
Cedar Crest College
Dakota Wesleyan University
University of Pittsburgh
Eastern Connecticut State University
Fort Lewis College
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
August 1- September 6
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Concordia University Wisconsin
The Master's University
*Source: Common App Application Requirements. Double-check that these colleges are still accepting applications before submitting one. Many of these colleges practice rolling admissions, and once their class fills, they stop accepting applications. On the other hand, other colleges may have spaces after their posted application deadlines. Soon after May 1, you can find a list of these colleges here: NACAC's annual College Openings Update: Options for Qualified Students.