What to Do if A College Says No

What are your options if you are declined admissions to the college of your choice?


College acceptance season is fast approaching, and with it, the potential for great elation as well as terrific disappointment. What are your options if your first choice (or even second and third choice college/univeresity) declines your application?

Don't panic! It's understandable that you are upset and even angry, but you need to look forward and be solution-oriented! Allow yourself a week or two to vent and to grieve and then move forward.

Give great thought to all of your acceptances. Were you acepted to your second, third, or fourth choice? If not, don't panic.

Rejection hurts as it tests the strength one's ego. Am I not smart enough? Competitive enough? Worthy of a decent future? Family and personal expectations play a big role in how one deals with rejection. Rejection, however, can spur determination and set the stage for real growth. View this as a challenge and carry on! Be stronger than those who would have you feel like a failure for even trying. Keep in mind, that sometimes, rejection decisions are based on human error, demographical constraints, and/or over-reaching.

So, how to proceed? Consider a state community or senior (4-year) college. You can always transfer after the first year or so and in the meantime save a lot of money if you choose your coursework wisely. Specifically, you will want to major in Liberal Arts and Sciences or General Studies and take the "basics": English, Psych/Soc/Anth, Math, Physical Sciences, Philosophy, History, etc. Your coursework should transfer very nicely to a more competitive institution, but you must do very well academically and particpate in extracurricular activities. The same can be said if you choose to enroll at a private senior college with the intent of transferring to your top choice.

Another option, if finances allow, is to consider a "Bridge the Gap" year. Boarding schools such as Cheshire Academy, in Cheshire, CT offer graduating seniors a 13th year option in which scholastic skills and extracurricular activities are enhanced making acceptance into the college of your choice much more likely. 

While some may want to take a "year off", research illustrates that the decision to do so, may hinder ones academic progress. If a clear, organized plan of action is in place and educational/career goals are clearly defined and attained, then this may be a viable option.

Families, peers, and self-expectations are the toughest obstacles concerning continued college study. In my 25 years of providing academic counseling/career counseling, I would emphatically state not to give up!

If your grades are decent enough, you can take courses at a community and/or senior college and then transfer to your top choice or complete your degree at a senior college and then obtain a Master's degree at your first choice institution.

Thalia Thompson, M.S., I.E.P. has over 25 years of experience providing academic planning, career counseling, and college admissions assistance to thousands of college students at The City University of New York and is a member of the American Counseling Association and the Independent Educational Consultants Association. She is the Owner of College Admissions Coaching, LLC providing college admissions assistance in Fairfield County, CT.



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Thalia Thompson, M.S., I.E.C. March 04, 2013 at 05:32 PM
Thanks for the thoughtful comments! A college education does not guarantee financial or personal success nor does taking a different route exclude one from personal/financial success. There are many paths and options. For those who choose to attend for personal/career reasons, this post is just to suggest that the world will not come crashing down if one doesn't get into their #1 choice.
Jim March 04, 2013 at 05:53 PM
I understand and you are totally right. But being turned down might be a blessing in disguise (best to learn to accept rejection early in life) according to the Wall Street Journal. WSJ has been calling out the Academic World from a value standpoint all year. The fact that we are commenting means we are reading your article.....well done!
Thalia Thompson, M.S., I.E.C. March 04, 2013 at 06:24 PM
I've read many of those articles as well Jim, and college/universities MUST do a better job of preparing students for actual, real-world jobs, the basics, and learning how to critically think! There is current legislation on the table charging institutions of higher learning with documenting work placements and MUCH more needs to be done. Effective academic planning/career counseling can play a huge role in assisting students to stay on task and to keep occupational goals in mind as well as to promote ways in which not to over-spend on an education that will not "pay off." Having said all of that, there are many who choose to attend colleges for reasons unrelated to specific career goals such as personal/academic growth. I respect that very much as well. You can't put a price on that. A solid education is something you carry around with you, can never be taken away, and influences the way you view your world.
Jim March 04, 2013 at 07:32 PM
Planning that you provide should be required - I'm the person that hires your child after college and I want them to be succesful and move up and realize success/accomplishment. Silly to make kids decide what they want to be at 17/18
Margaret Callahan March 05, 2013 at 12:47 AM
most kids wind up happy with where they wind up, I think


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