Sad brunette teenager holding head against knees with rejection letter in hand

Rejected From Your Favorite Colleges? Here's What You Can Do

If you’ve read too many letters from colleges that start with “We regret to inform you,” all hope is not lost! Here’s what you can do to make a new plan.

“We regret to inform you…” Anyone who has ever read those five little words probably felt an unsettling feeling. You may have revisited what was possibly a sad moment in your life at the time. Rejection sucks—especially when you feel like you worked so hard and you’re told “No. You’re not ‘good enough.’” College application and acceptance season is one of the most important times in a high school senior’s life, and being told “no” and getting rejected from your dream school(s) may seem like a rude door being slammed in your face. It’s especially painful if you already envisioned your life at a school and began to make so many plans. Here are a few steps to take if you end up getting rejected from your dream school or other colleges you’ve applied to.

Re-evaluate your applications

Most students apply to an average of five to 12 colleges, usually consisting of target, safety, and reach schools. The Common App itself doesn’t allow students to apply to more than 20 schools in an application cycle. If you applied to about 15 schools and every school waitlisted or rejected you, it’s important to go back to the drawing board to figure out what exactly the problem may be. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Do my current statistics match the college’s requirements? Numerous websites and college prep resources report college acceptance rates as well as required grades and scores for admission. This information can also be found on the college’s website. It’s important to do your homework and research before applying to a college to see how good of a chance you may have regarding their decision.
  • Do I have enough extracurricular and leadership activities on my résumé? A lot of colleges these days look far beyond just academics; they want to see the real you and how well you can cope balancing academics and personal interests. It’s important to be involved in long-term leadership and extracurricular activities, which show your growth and progress as a person throughout high school.
  • Do I have good college essays? Although this is sometimes looked over by students, having high-quality college essays is extremely important. Writing is a very important skill for college and postgrad life, and regardless of what your major is, being able to vividly express yourself and show your creative skills through writing is weighted heavily during most college application cycles.

Look through your college application stats, and if there’s still time, work toward applying to other schools. Many colleges and universities have rolling admission policies in case you miss a Regular Decision deadline.

Related: 4 Questions to Ask if You Get a Rejection Letter

Write an appeal letter

Certain colleges find it important to show interest in and dedication to the school’s vision, and extra considerations may be made for students who show genuine concern and interest in the school. Although there’s no guarantee that they’ll reverse their decision, you can write an appeal letter to a college’s admission team if you get rejected or waitlisted. You never know—it could have been one little mistake that resulted in their decision, and being respectful and showing genuine interest in wanting to be a part of the school could go a long way for you. Be sure to inquire with the school’s admission team if there is an appeal process set in place before writing your letter.

Take a gap year

I wasn’t a huge fan of gap years until I found myself in a position where it became inevitable. Being an international student, there were certain issues regarding visa wait times that made me have to defer my admission to Ithaca College for a year. Already having my college and enrollment sorted out, my gap year period has been used by being productive and taking up internships to have firsthand experience of the work culture I’ll be coming back to after my education in the United States.

If you find yourself taking an unexpected gap year because your college plans fell through, part of your time should be used to reapply to colleges and take a step back to see what major will be right for you. Here are some other valuable ways to spend your gap year and get ready for college:

  • Retake the SAT, ACT, or any other tests that may be required and try to improve your scores.
  • Get involved in more volunteering, leadership, and extracurricular activities.
  • Apply for an internship or get a job to earn firsthand work experience and try out your interests. Explore any passions you may have put off during school, including hobbies and activities you’ve always wanted to try.
  • If you can, travel or volunteer abroad for a month or two. Get in touch with the wonders of the world and open your mind to the numerous opportunities out there. Some popular travel abroad programs for gap year students include Semester at Sea, PlanMyGapYear, Worldpackers, VolunteerHQ, and Volunteer World.

Start at community college

If you don’t want to miss out on college for a year, you can always go to community college, work hard to get good grades, then transfer to your dream college sophomore year. This route will make you stay on top of schoolwork and allow you to graduate on time, not to mention save you some money.

Related: Pros and Cons of Transferring From Community College to a Four-Year School

Remember: College rejection can be a redirection. It can open you up to countless opportunities, and you’ll get to explore yourself and your career options more. Best of luck wherever you land!

Learn more about dealing with rejection, taking a gap year, and finding other schools to apply to by exploring all the articles and advice in our College Admission section.

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