It’s April and admissions decisions have finally arrived! After months of waiting, the envelopes, skinny, fat, and electronic are finally here. Our expert counselors and I have cooked up some advice for a few of the possible admissions scenarios you may be facing.
You’ve Been Accepted by Your Favorite Top Choice School
Congratulations! You’ve done your research, worked hard in school, and submitted an excellent application. One potential concern you may have now is paying for college. If scholarships, loans, and grants are a consideration you should sit down and evaluate all of your options. Talk with your parents or counselor to get a clear picture of how much debt you (or your parents) may be taking on and exactly how much you (or your parents) will be able to afford.
The number of applications each student submits is increasing each year. If you applied to a balanced list of schools, chances are good that you have been accepted to more than one school. Hopefully you did your research before applying, and many of these acceptances are from schools you have a genuine interest in that are also a good fit for you. Whether or not you have a first choice, it might be a valuable exercise to sit down with a parent or counselor and write up a list of pros and cons for each school. This list should include the strength of the department you’re interested in majoring in (or, if you’re undecided, the overall academic strength of each school), location, size, student life, and any extracurricular activities you may want to participate in. Financial aid or total cost of attendance may also be a factor. Even if you are a full-paying student, you may want to consider the value of the education you’ll be receiving. For example, is College A really worth $10,000 more than College B in terms of academic offerings and quality of life? If you’re undecided, try to narrow down your list as much as possible and then schedule a second round of college visits. Remember though, most schools require a decision and deposit by May 1st.
You’ve Been Waitlisted by One or More of Your Top Choice Schools
This is a tough spot to be in—after months of waiting, you’re being asked to wait longer. Your first course of action is to ascertain whether you want to continue pursuing acceptance at a school that has waitlisted you. As it stands, the decision factors are not in your favor.
Colleges generally use waitlists to ensure they have a full student class roster come fall semester. The number of applicants in recent years has exploded, which means that for many schools the freshmen class will be full or almost full after regular decision candidates send in their acceptances and deposits. If you do decide to continue pursuing admission to the school that waitlisted you, there are several things to keep in mind. If you have not already done so, develop a rapport with the admissions office by identifying your regional representative and getting in touch with him or her either through email or a phone call. Let the admissions officer know that you’re still interested in the university, and (if this is true) if awarded a spot you will definitely attend.
You may also email or mail any updates to your application that might better inform the admissions committee, such as higher grades, improved test scores, or any honors or awards you may have received. A new letter of recommendation from a senior year teacher, for example, is also appropriate to send, if it provides updated or additional information. You may consider contacting the admissions office to inquire how many students from previous years were granted admission after having been waitlisted first. Keep in mind that if you are admitted off the waitlist, you may not have the same access to housing and financial aid as students that were admitted before you.
You Were Not Admitted To Most or All of Your Top Choice Schools
You can still pursue one or more of your favorite schools, either by opting to take a gap year and reapplying, or by working hard at a different institution during your freshman year and focusing on transferring. You may also contact the admissions office and ask about their appeal policy, which sometimes allows for applicants to submit updated information such as improved grades or updated test scores. However, you should not solely rely on these options. Instead, you should focus on learning more about the school or schools you were accepted to. Schedule another campus visit and try to speak with professors who teach the classes that you would be interested in taking. Some schools offer options such as a smaller honors college or specialized academic programs. Investigate these opportunities and think about what aspects of college are important to you. You may find that after a second consideration you have a new top choice.
When Your Friends Get In…Or Don’t
Despite the enthusiasm you may be feeling, remember to be tactful when it comes to sharing your admissions results with your friends and classmates. Not all of your peers may have gotten into their top choices. When it comes to online social networks, like Facebook or chat programs, avoid writing the list of schools you got into on your status or profile page, as you won’t be attending every school. Imagine instead how it might feel if your dream school denied your application, but accepted one of your classmates who has decided not to attend. Even though it’s not correct to think so, you might feel as though “your” spot was wasted. Likewise, try not to compare yourself with friends and classmates who have gotten into a school, where you were denied. From an outside perspective it’s nearly impossible to gauge exactly why an admissions committee chooses one qualified candidate over another.
Remember, contrary to popular belief, some acceptance letters do come in thin envelopes, so you should open all of your mail. Many letters will also be arriving via email so check your junk mail or spam box just in case. Whatever admissions decisions await you at the mailbox this spring, reward yourself for completing the intensive work of applying for college.