When Life Gives you Lemons: Navigating a Difficult College Admission Year

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College acceptances have been released…. Now what?

It’s OK to be disappointed if you didn’t get into your top choices, but don’t take it personally. This was an especially difficult year with many of the highly selective schools seeing a major increase in application pools since becoming test-optional (some were up 45%!). With larger pools, comes greater selectivity. Now, throw in the fact that some students deferred from the previous year, and you are left with an extremely competitive college admission season. Because of this, many students might hear difficult news, but let’s make some lemonade, shall we?

Don’t just focus on the places where you didn’t get in and the reasons why.

Maybe they are places you never visited. Maybe they are schools where you hadn’t quite envisioned yourself. But, if you applied, there must be a reason why it was on your list. Open your mind and take a second look at all of the schools where you were accepted. Some schools are now allowing outside visitors on campus, so take that trip if you can! And, if you can’t? There are many resources online to give you a better sense of the school. You might even consider calling the admission rep at the school and asking if there is a student you can chat with. Leave no stone unturned and give all of your prospects a fair look.

Use numerous resources when making your decision.

Don’t let one person sway your decision. A lot of people will be giving you advice, but remember, you are the one going to college and it’s your future. Make sure that it’s the right fit for you and not Aunt Edna. This is also the time to check in with your college counselor to talk through your options. They know you well and can give unbiased feedback. You can also check out our previous post on Choosing the Right School: Tips from College Counseling.

Make sure all of your financial aid forms are in! 

With acceptances rolling in, that means financial aid packages as well. Remember though, they can’t send you a package if all of your forms are not in. If anything major has happened since you turned in your forms, this is the time to communicate that. Maybe a parent lost their job, or other family circumstances have changed. Pick up the phone, call the financial aid office, tell them your new story, and be ready to send supporting documents. Your college counselor can also help with this.

If a college says “maybe,” call and email them. 

Many selective colleges will put some of their applicants on a waitlist. This means they will be happy to offer them admission if there’s room to admit them. It’s expected that many colleges will have very big waitlists this year. Remember, they have no idea who is going to confirm their acceptance as their application pools were inflated, so, it’s important they know you’re interested. All they want to hear is that if you are accepted, you will enroll! Unless they tell you they don’t want to hear from you, meet with your counselor to discuss a plan and contact the admissions office. This process can drag into July or August, but if you’re on campus in September, it will be time well invested.

Take a deep breath.

It’s going to be ok. Where you go doesn’t dictate who you will be as a person. It’s what you take advantage of while you are there and how you make the most of your experience—just be sure to deposit by May 1. And most importantly, enjoy what’s left of your senior year!


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