What to Do If You Don’t Get Into the College of Your Choice

What to do if you don't get Into the College of Your ChoiceCollege acceptance letters will be arriving soon. So will college rejection letters. If you’re a student who has been waiting to see how you will fare, you’ll spread out all those letters on your kitchen table, take stock, and see what your options are.

Let’s take a look at what could happen, and what you next steps should be.

Scenario One: You got into the college that was your top choice. Congratulations, you won the game of college admissions. But before you send in your deposit and put a college sticker on your car, consider going back to campus for an overnight. (Most colleges offer accepted students the option of making overnight visits.)  The fact is, a college can look a lot different after you have gotten accepted – different from the way it looked when you took a brief college tour, and different from the way it appeared on the college’s website. So go back, sleep over, and get the “feel” of the place. Should it really have been your top choice?

Scenario Two: You only got into several schools that were not your top choice, and now you don’t know what to do. Don’t despair because your top school rejected you. Instead, go back to the schools where you were accepted, and visit overnight. Don’t only go to the official events that those schools have set up for accepted students. Also go into the student union, the dining hall, and everywhere else to strike up conversations with students. The unscripted comments they make can help you narrow down your choices and make the pick that is best for you. Another good move is to knock on the doors of some faculty members – preferably those who are teaching a subject that you might major in – and simply chat.

Scenario Three: Financial aid issues have clouded your decision. Maybe you got into your top school, but without enough financial aid to make it possible to go there. Maybe your parents are putting on the pressure to attend a school that you aren’t too excited about, but which offered you a ton of money. There are many different issues and problems, but really one solution to all of them: You can contact schools that accepted you and ask for more financial aid. I know one young woman, for example, who got accepted into a top women’s college in New England, but with nearly no financial aid at all. She and her father visited the financial aid office and explained that she had two sisters who were in college at the same time, and that she needed more funding. She and her father left the office with a scholarship, a work-study job, and assurance of a loan if she decided to attend. Financial aid really is negotiable.

Scenario Four: You didn’t get in anywhere. This really does happen. A few years ago, for example, I met a young man whose academic achievements in high school and test scores were so strong that he only applied to a small group of Ivy League-level institutions. Guess what? They all rejected him, so he took a gap year and worked a job, then reapplied to a larger group of colleges the following year. Getting rejected everywhere is usually the result of making poor decisions like his during the application process. But even if you get rejected everywhere, you have choices. You can loop back, contact colleges where you did not apply, and lob in a late application – no matter what the “official” application date is. (This usually works if you are a very strong student with credentials that would put you at the top of that school’s applicant pool.) You can also apply to schools that have a policy of accepting late applications. (For a list of them, CLICK HERE.) Another choice is to apply to schools that offer rolling admission, meaning that you can apply at any time of the year. (For a list of them, CLICK HERE.) Another way to find schools that offer rolling admissions is to get a copy of the book Colleges That Change Lives by Loren Pope. Just about all of the colleges listed in that book accept rolling admission applications.

If you didn’t get in anywhere, you have other options too. You can take courses here at StraighterLine and take advantage of our Partner College program to start college in a few months.

In years past, you could have taken courses at a community college, earned credits, and then transferred into one of your state colleges or universities. You can still try that strategy. But it might not work as well as it did in the past, simply because many community colleges have been forced to cut classes and enrollments due to budgetary problems.

But no matter what happens, you have options. If you’re determined and flexible, you’ll find yourself in a great college soon. No matter what kind of acceptance or rejection letters drop through your mail slot and end up on your kitchen table.

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What To Do If You Get Rejected from the College You Really Wanted to Attend
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