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College Admissions: No Acceptances? Don’t Panic

Monday, March 21, 2016


If your college search has turned up with nothing but rejections or waiting lists, don't panic. You've got options.

As acceptances, rejections and waiting-list notifications arrive, panic has set in for some seniors. What do you do when you were rejected from ALL of your colleges, don’t like your options, or receive only waiting-list offers? First stay calm. This may have happened for a variety of reasons. You may have overestimated your credentials and underestimated the competitive nature of the colleges on your list. Your application could have been rushed and riddled with errors or your essays could have major flaws. Something you did not anticipate may have happened—you may have gotten a bad recommendation. Possibly, you just had bad luck and came out on the losing side of the stats. Although it is late in the game, there are some things you can do to create options for next year.

Get An Expert Review

An independent college advisor, a former admissions rep or a guidance counselor outside of your school system should review your college list, transcripts, SAT/ACT scores, application and essays to give you a second opinion on what happened. Your school counselor most likely has already weighed in on the situation, and you need an impartial review of your results now.

Playing the Waiting List Game

If you received Waiting List offers, you should know that the odds are usually daunting at the most competitive colleges in the country. However, there are things you can do to enhance your chances. First, write a letter to admissions updating them on your accomplishments, awards and grades. Send them a link to your updated art portfolio, sports video, music recital or the school newspaper article that you recently wrote. Tell them why you feel the school will be a good fit. If it is a first choice, say the words “if accepted, I will attend”.

Colleges Still Have Openings!

Many colleges have rolling admission into the summer. Check deadlines at www.collegeboard.com . The National Association for College Admission Counseling will also publish a list in early May with colleges that still have openings. Some have vacant spots because they miscalculated yield, and there are usually some great schools on the list. In other cases, colleges will be accepting applications for students to start in January for the second semester.

Take a Gap Year

Many students can benefit from a Gap Year, and college look very favorably on this decision. Gap options include: working, doing a career-oriented internship, participating in an organized community program like City Year, or living abroad and learning another language. A Gap Year Fair is a great place to start your journey: usagapyearfairs.org.

Post Graduate Year

If you have the resources, some boarding schools offer post-graduate years. Students essentially take different courses, but redo their senior year of high school and their college application process. The cost is usually about the same as a year at a private college, but some schools offer financial aid.

Explore Community College

Finally, you may want to consider starting your college career at Community College. This will allow you to take courses for credit and then apply as a transfer student for January or the fall of 2017. Many famous people started their careers at Community Colleges.

Not getting the outcome you wanted during college admission season can be devastating, but with some expert guidance and resources, you can create a “Plan B” that will result in terrific options for next year.


Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic college counseling, SAT prep and athletic recruiting services www.collegeadvisorsonline.com.

Editor's Note: This article was originally run on April 1, 2013


Related Slideshow: New England Colleges With the Best Undergraduate Teaching

U.S. News & World Report released a survey conducted in 2013 of college administrators on the best schools for undergraduate teaching. Several New England made their lists for best National Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, and Regional Universities. See which schools made the lists in the slides below: 

Prev Next

National Universities

9. Brown University

Providence, RI 
Students: 6,435
2013-14 Tuition: $45,612
Admissions: 9.6% Acceptance Rate
Prev Next

National Universities

5. Yale University 

New Haven, CT
Students: 5,405
2013-14 Tuition: $44,000
Admissions: 7.0% Acceptance Rate
Prev Next

National Universities

1. Dartmouth College

Hanover, NH
Students: 4,193
2013-14 Tuition: $46,752
Admissions: 9.8% Acceptance Rate
Prev Next

National Liberal Arts Col

18. Mount Holyoke College

South Hadley, MA 
Students: 2,322
2013-14 Tuition: $41,456
Admissions: 42.1% Acceptance Rate
Prev Next

Liberal Arts Colleges

9. Amherst College

Amherst, MA
Students: 1,817 
2013-14 Tuition: $46,574
Admissions: 13.0% Acceptance Rate
Prev Next

Liberal Arts Colleges

5. Williams College

Williamstown, MA
Students: 2,052
2013-14 Tuition: $46,600
Admissions: 17.0% Acceptance Rate
Prev Next

Regional Univ. - North

4. Fairfield University

Fairfield, CT
Students: 3,879
2013-14 Tuition: $42,920
Admissions: 71.2% Acceptance Rate
Prev Next

Regional Univ. - North

2. Providence College

Providence, RI
Students: 3,810
2013-14 Tuition: $42,206
Admissions: 61.0%

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