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Rejected? Here’s What to Do If You Were Not Accepted to College

Once again, many colleges and universities reported record-high application numbers for the class of 2021, and record-low admission rates. Unfortunately, rejection in the college admissions process is a hard reality that many students must face. In some cases students can be left with few college options, but there are actually a number of routes that students can take to ultimately fulfill their college dreams.

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) the average acceptance rate across all four-year institutions in the US is around 65%. Even though this average has been steadily declining over the past few years, it has recently stabilized. But for students seeking admission to highly selective colleges and universities, the statistics are often not in their favor.

This year, Columbia University admitted just 5.8% of applicants to the class of 2021 – down from 12% just 10 years ago. The University of Chicago has consistently admitted less than 10% of applicants over the past few years, which is a dramatic decline compared to the school’s 35% admission rate in 2007. The University of Pennsylvania reported an admission rate of 9.15% for the class of 2021 – down over 10 percentage points from its 20% admission rate in 2007.

With more students applying to more colleges than ever, the chances of receiving a rejection increase, especially if students fail to create a balanced list of likely, target, and reach colleges. So what should students do if they are denied from their top-choice colleges and left with few, or no, college options for the fall? Here are some tips.

Look For Colleges That Are Still Accepting Applications
If you’re set on attending college in the fall, but did not receive many or any offers of admission to the colleges to which you already applied, consider finding colleges that are still accepting applications. Every year the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) releases a list of colleges still accepting applications for admission to the fall class. This list is usually released at the beginning of May, after enrollment decisions are in.

However, don’t apply just to apply. Do your research and make sure the colleges you are considering submitting some last-minute applications to are good fit schools for your social, academic, and financial goals.

Take a Gap Year
For many students who had a difficult or unsuccessful admissions process, a gap year can be a great option post high school graduation. There are a number of things that students can do during a gap year, including working, interning, volunteering, traveling, or even taking a few classes, before preparing for the admissions process again. If you’re unhappy with your college options, consider meeting with your counselor to discuss the benefits of a gap year, and what you can do during your time off to enhance your chances of admission during the next application cycle.

Attend a Local or Community College
Don’t let college rejections keep your from pursuing higher education. Taking classes at a local or community college while you figure out your next steps is a smart move, as it can help you fulfill some general credits and can keep you from falling behind your peers. If you plan to apply to your top-choice colleges again next year as a transfer student, take classes that align with your interests, and that will transfer to the institutions you’re interested in.

Make a Plan to Apply Again Next Year
Whether you take a gap year, attend a local or community college, or just take some time to work and gain real-world experience, you’ll need a plan of action should you choose to apply to college again in the fall. It’s important to start thinking about that now, as your choices now will affect how you apply to college in the fall.

For example, if you choose to attend another college and transfer, you’ll need to apply as a transfer student. If you take a gap year, you’ll be applying again as a freshman, but you might have to disclose that you have applied to that college previously. Take some time to consider your options, and once you have a plan for the next year, begin planning for the college admissions process again. Just because you’ve been through it once before doesn’t mean you don’t need to take time to prepare.

Rejection is never easy, and for many students it can alter plans that they’ve had for years, and leave them lost about what to do next. It’s important to stay positive and remember that there are plenty of options for students to consider outside of the traditional college path.

If you’re considering a gap year, or need help evaluating your options after a college rejection, the team of expert counselors at IvyWise can help you determine the best plan of action. Contact us today for more information on our college counseling services for transfer students, gap year students, and more.