Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Strategies for the Disappointed

As the final group of colleges provides students with the good -- or bad -- news about their applications, there are going to be many students who are closed out of their top choice schools. Some were rejected, others were accepted but not given sufficient financial aid to make four years even remotely affordable. Still other students are in the purgatory of the "waiting list."

Of course, many high school seniors have dealt with this issue much earlier in the process, by applying to schools with rolling admissions or by submitting one of several types of early decision/action applications. But the fact is that there are a large number of high school seniors who need to make decisions from a list of colleges that were not among their favored choices. If you are one of these graduating seniors, what should you do in the next few weeks before you need to send in your deposit?

First of all, if you have been put on the waiting list, you need to understand that this is a signal from that college that you definitely meet their standards, but that there are simply too many highly qualified students whom have applied and that they need time to see what their 'yield' will be to make sure they have the number of entering freshmen that they can handle in their classes and dorms. If you are still interested in the school(s) that have put you on their waiting list, by all means let them know. Then think about what meaningful new information you can provide them -- an award that you received after your application was completed, a rise in your grades, an internship that you held spring semester, etc. Let them know about these new items, but only if they are new; don't rehash old grades or accomplishments. And, once you have done all you can to burnish your application to your waiting list schools, put them out of your mind. You may hear from them in a few weeks, early in the summer, or not until the day before classes begin in the fall. But you need to stop wishful thinking and get on with planning your college life.

The next step is to re-evaluate those schools that have accepted you. Look at the practical issues, including the financial aid package you did -- or didn't -- receive. Are you being offered a place in a special program, such as an honors college? If at all possible, visit the school during the "accepted students weekend." Most schools have them and it is a time when the tables are turned and the school is out to convince you to attend. Don't worry if you haven't made up your mind. For every accepted student putting a school logo in the rear of his car window, there will be one like you who is weighing a number of possibilities for next fall. We know a number of students who have been rejected from their first choice schools only to find that their "safe school" has been a wonderful experience.

Once you have re-evaluated and visited the schools that have accepted you, it's time to accept one place and put in a deposit. If your dream school has placed you on the waiting list and comes through after this is done, you will lose your deposit, but that is a small price to pay if you are still determined to attend that school.

Most of all, whether you are excitedly looking forward to the fall, or still dealing with the disappointment of what may be your very first rejection, know that a disappointing outcome in the admissions process is not a reflection of your worth, your future, or how much you will enjoy and get out of attending a school which was not your first choice.

Photo used under Creative Commons from borman818

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