What Happens if You Are Not Accepted Early Decision

Monday, December 11, 2023


Early Decision and Early Action notifications are right around the corner, and many students have already received their admissions decisions. With so many more students applying to college this year, unfortunately, there isn’t a spot for everyone. But remember, it isn’t the end of the world if you were not accepted early!

Students who have compiled a balanced list of best-fit colleges can rest assured they will gain admission to an institution that aligns with their needs and goals. Keep reading to learn about the next steps students should take after hearing negative news from their Early Decision or Early Action university.

If You Are Rejected

If you receive a rejection notice from the college you applied to via Early Decision or Early Action, the best thing you can do is to focus on moving forward. There are numerous reasons why a student might not be offered a seat in a class; so, instead of focusing on what led to your rejection, think about the future and devise a strategic plan of action. If you haven’t put the finishing touches on your Regular Decision applications yet, prioritize that. Students may also consider applying to a college with an Early Decision II or Early Action II process, which can help applicants demonstrate their interest in an institution much like Early Decision I. In some cases, you may even be able to apply during the “secret” Early Decision III round.

If You Are Deferred

A deferral can come with a mixed bag of emotions: on the one hand, there is still a chance that you will get admitted down the line, but on the other hand, there’s disappointment and confusion due to the lack of a confirmed acceptance. While it is important to process all of these feelings, it’s also essential to put in the work needed to continue to move the application process along. First, students should decide if they wish to continue the application process for their original Early Decision institution or if they would rather move on and focus on other options.

If an applicant decides that their Early Decision I choice is still at the top of their list, it’s important to follow the institution-specific guidelines for the next steps. Some colleges might request specific information, such as an updated grade report or test scores, while others may specify that they do not wish to receive any additional materials. Consult your Early Decision university’s website for updated information and don’t be afraid to reach out to the admissions office with any pressing questions.

In addition to sending required materials, you should write a Letter of Continued Interest (LOCI) — or a one-page deferral letter — that details your continued commitment to the college, any new achievements since submitting your original application, and why you believe the college is your best-fit option, but only if the school accepts letters of continued interest.

What Happens If You Apply Early Decision and Back Out?

Early decision is in most cases binding. However, if you have a good reason for backing out of an Early Decision offer, like a drastic change in finances or an extreme life change, the school will often let you leave without penalty. Sometimes a student won’t receive the financial aid package or grants they need and therefore can’t afford to attend the school. Backing out of an Early Decision offer should not be taken lightly, so only apply Early Decision if you know 100% you can attend if accepted.

Pointers for Everyone

Regardless of your specific scenario, these tips can help you cope:

Trust the Process

It’s natural to feel disappointed by rejection or a deferral, but try to feel confident about the admissions process. Different colleges are looking to build different types of classes, and your unique application is bound to stand out for all of the right reasons at one institution on your list.

Get Excited About Other Options

Channel your negative feelings into something positive and get excited about the other universities on your best-fit list. Consider visiting if you haven’t already and explore the unique opportunities available on each campus.

Give Yourself Time

Like any other major life update, it takes time to cope. Give yourself a few days to process your feelings, reward yourself for the hard work you have put in, and look ahead to the future.

Not receiving an acceptance is disappointing, but students still have plenty of exciting options. If you are looking for more information on bouncing back after a rejection or deferral, our team of experts can help.


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