The waiting period is over and you’ve received a decision, now what do you do?
You’ve been Admitted: Congratulations! If you’ve been admitted to your #1 choice college, then it’s pretty likely your decision on where to enroll is done. However, what if you’ve been admitted to several schools you’re interested in? How do you decide? Here are some tips:
Is cost a factor? Compare aid packages carefully, and make sure that your freshman package will remain constant if your family’s finances remain relatively stable. Some colleges “front load”; they will offer very attractive awards the first year, then drastically reduce aid the following years, even if your financial situation is the same.
Have you visited? If it’s within your means to visit the various campuses, this is the time to do it. How you feel when you’re there, talking to students, seeing the dorms and academic facilities, trying the food - these are all valuable factors in your assessment. If you have visited, a second visit to confirm your initial impressions (or not) can also be helpful.
Thinking of graduate school? Compare placement rates for the graduate/professional school in your anticipated field of study.
You’ve been Wait-listed: Being wait-listed isn’t as great as being admitted, but it does still offer that possibility. If you retain a strong interest in a college that has waitlisted you, then remain on the list and supplement that with a letter that confirms your continued commitment to the school and that you *will* attend if admitted. Also add any new information such as grades, awards, etc that may not have appeared on your original application. However, if cost will be factor, you should know many colleges give less favorable aid awards to wait list students, so you may be better off accepting an offer in hand and moving on. It may also be helpful for you to decide on whether or not to stay on the list by asking the college how many students were on the wait list in the last couple of years, and how many were offered admission. Note that an admission offer from the wait list almost always takes place after May 1, so you will have to make a decision (and place a non-refundable deposit) elsewhere while waiting for a potential offer.
Please be fair to those who really do want to attend and remove yourself from being considered if you are truly not interested in attending the wait-listed school.
You’ve been Denied: It can be very disappointing, even painful, to get denied to a college you were really interested in attending. However, it’s important that you know being refused admission is not a personal reflection against you. Most colleges, especially the most selective ones, receive far more applications from qualified applicants like you than they can possibly admit. It’s a difficult process to sort them all out and make decisions that often come down to some very fine distinctions. So what can you do? Generally speaking, it is extremely difficult to convince a college to reverse a decision to deny you admission. You could write an appeal letter, but you would have to demonstrate that the college did not adequately consider your application, which is nearly impossible to do without actually having access to the committee’s deliberations, which are confidential. However, you always have the option of attempting to transfer or re-applying, which is discussed more fully below.
Transfer: If you remain interested in a particular college that denied you, transferring from another college is an option. It’s worthwhile to call the college that denied you and ask them if there’s anything you can do to strengthen your profile and then work on those areas at another college. Typically, a strong transfer applicant will have a GPA of at least 3.2, with some courses related to your intended major to demonstrate your ability in college level courses. It’s also best to complete at least one full year so that you have enough of a new academic profile that will distance you from the high school record that was already denied.
Re-applying after a gap year: This is somewhat different than transferring, in that you are not spending the interim time at another college, but instead taking an opportunity to pursue an interest, work, get an internship, etc. rather than attend another school . (See our article "Want to Take A Gap Year? Some Points to Consider" for more information). Keep in mind that if you immediately re-apply, without anything new to offer, it is highly unlikely you will get a different decision.
For more information, please also check out How To Help Your Child Through The College Admissions Process.