The teenage rite of passage of waiting for incoming college decisions may have changed from looking for the thin or fat envelope to hitting “refresh” on the Web browser, but the anxiety of college decision limbo has not. While many of this year’s two million-plus college applicants have earned admission into their top choice schools, many more are coping with the blow of rejection or being sent into waitlist mode, wondering what to do next. Meanwhile, even those fortunate enough to get accepted into their top choice schools are grappling with tough decisions. During this critical time, what should college applicants do and how can parents support their efforts? Kaplan Test Prep offers the following advice for students to help navigate the most common college admissions scenarios.
- I didn’t get accepted to my top choice schools. Don’t be discouraged. You’re far from alone. Many of the nation’s most competitive schools announced record low acceptance rates this year (e.g. 5.9% for Harvard University; 6.3% for Yale University; 8.6% for Brown University; 7.3% for Princeton University; 6.9% for Columbia University). Keep in mind that college admissions have an element of subjectivity; also, rejection can sometimes reflect more on a school’s desire to build a well-rounded and diverse class with limited spots than on your strength as an applicant. Ideally you’ve applied to multiple places, including “safety” schools, which means you should have options. Take another look at these schools. If you applied to them, you must have liked something about them. And remember that generations of college students before you didn’t get into their top choice schools, but ended up being happy with their college experience.
- I’ve been waitlisted. Do I wait? The last thing you should do if you’ve been waitlisted is wait. Your first step: thank the school for keeping your application under continued consideration and send the admissions office new, relevant information that could aid your cause: midterm grades, awards, new leadership roles, etc. Make the case that you are a “must-have student.” That said, don’t be under any illusion that getting off the waitlist will be easy; in fact, it’s unlikely. According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), in the most recently surveyed year, colleges accepted an average of 25% of all students who chose to remain on waitlists - down from 31% the previous year. With that in mind, definitely revisit the schools that did say “We want you now.”
- I got into my top college choice, but the amount of financial aid they offered me wasn’t enough. Don’t be afraid to ask for more aid. Unlike FAFSA offers, which are non-negotiable, there may be flexibility in financial aid packages awarded directly by colleges. One strategy may be to show them a financial aid offer made by another college that accepted you and see if they’ll match it. Since they’ve already accepted you, they more than likely will work with you. Explain to them how your family’s financial situation may have changed since first applying or how your activities since applying warrant additional aid; the worst that can happen is that your request is denied.
- I got into several of my top schools; how do I decide which one to attend? This is the best situation to be in, but that doesn’t mean the decision will be simple. Refer to the list of factors you considered when you first applied. If paying for college is an important factor, evaluate their financial aid packages. If you can, visit (or revisit) the campuses that are still in the running, talk to current students and/or alumni, consider what’s most important to you in your college experience and which school will be the best “fit” for your priorities. Then, discuss it with those who know you best and make an informed decision.
One more thing to keep in mind: schools have the right to revoke your acceptance. While this is an uncommon occurrence, it does happen. Keep your grades up (according to a study by the NACAC, colleges say final grades are the reason for revoking admission 68.7 percent of the time); don’t get in trouble with the law or with your school; and be on your best behavior on social media.