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Accepted? Waitlisted? Denied? Now what?

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

I always say there is a momentary feeling of relief when students hit the "submit" button for college applications, followed quickly by a long stretch of panic when realizing the decision is now out of their control. But, the wait is over! Decisions are in and students find themselves back in control.

Here's how to handle the possibilities...


If you were denied by your top choice(s), allow yourself to grieve. You probably bought a t-shirt and wore it religiously and imagined opening that email to a different outcome worthy of an Instagram moment. You had pictured yourself there and put your heart and soul into the application. Maybe the applicant pool was too competitive. Maybe the admissions committee had too many students apply who also play bassoon. Unfortunately, you won't ever know the "why." It's tempting to compare results, "I had x on the ACT and got denied; she had a lower score and got in" but that is never fruitful. You only see one side of the equation and can't get in the mind of the person who was reading thousands of applications taking into consideration a myriad of factors. The best thing to do is give yourself time to process the loss (burn the t-shirt if it helps) and get excited about the options you do control. You won't want to hear this now, but 99% of former students of mine who were sure that one school was their soulmate, have come back to tell me that the admissions committee actually knew what they were doing. And I always say that if you don't love where you end up, transfer!


This one is a little infuriating. If you are waitlisted at a school you're really invested in, the message is that you are qualified, but we don't have the room, stretching out the process even longer. You probably have the itch to commit to one of your accepts and join in the celebrations. My advice is to weigh the school against your best acceptance. If you would still attend it over your best-acceptance option, then keep yourself on the waitlist and send an email (just one!) to the admissions committee. The letter should include 2 things: significant achievements since your application and the reasons why that school is still the one for you. Just like your essays, you need to be specific--did you improve your GPA despite senioritis? Win a regional championship? Do some research and find out how the school has been in the news (positively) to re-affirm your interest. Maybe a professor in an area you want to study published research or the school was involved in community outreach during the Covid outbreak. You may be tempted to take an indignant tone in your email, but resist. Though venting may feel good, it never works. Be upbeat and positive and leave them knowing they would get a winner by moving you up the list.


This is great news! If you know the one, and you're comfortable with the financial package, accept and pay your deposit! If you're not sure, make sure you get your questions answered. Reach out to Financial Aid and admissions directors to answer questions, reach out to current students, and join the Facebook page for admitted students to get a feel for your future classmates. Ideally, you would be able to attend admitted student days, but given the current virus outbreak, those aren't happening. Many schools are having video chats and virtual events that you can join to see which school feels right for you.

Even if the process didn't go as you had hoped or expected, this is an exciting time and your accomplishments should be celebrated. Most students I know have embraced their choice, dived in, and relished their experience. At College Collective, we wish you all the best. Congratulations, you've got a bright future ahead.

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