1. Applications have been at an all-time high at many colleges, so this means that getting admitted to these colleges is more difficult than ever before. With many factors entering into the admissions process, keep in mind that students who apply to these colleges usually qualify for admissions, thus an increase in the number of applications that make admission that much harder.
2. There is a common reason why colleges deny admission to students. The number one reason selective colleges deny admission to students is simple--they run out of room. If they had more dorm rooms, and more professors, and more classrooms, they would love to take more students--but they cannot do justice to the students they do admit by taking too many, since no one gets a quality education that way--and that’s not fair to anyone.
3. With more applications, and limited space, colleges must create a learning community that is exciting, diverse, and rich with opportunities. To do this, colleges that want a combination of art and sciences, a mixture of data (grades and test scores) and insight (from personal statements, letters of recommendations, etc.) in deciding who gets admitted. Also, these selective colleges will tell you that just about everyone who decides to apply to a selective college qualifies for admission--they would be a great student, benefit the college tremendously, and contribute to the college in many ways. Since you applied to a selective college, those compliments would apply to you.
College admissions is about many things, but it is never a judgment about you as a person, or about everything you have accomplished. Most colleges go to great pains to point this out when they send their denial letters; believe me when I tell you that they aren’t just being nice, but that they truly respect and honor everything you have done as a student and as a person, and they are grateful you applied to their college. That might not mean much the minute you open the letter, it will over time--whether the college says yes, no, or maybe, your value and worth as a person is cast in stone.
Now, About the Decisions
When you heard from a college this week, you’ll get one of four kinds of decisions. Each decision has its own possibilities, so let’s go over them:
An offer of admission is the news you’ve been hoping for--and more. In addition to congratulating you, the offer of admissions includes information on housing, orientation, and financial aid. Be sure to read all of it; this information will be of great value to you if you need to decide among several offers of admission.
Colleges may offer you a seat in the freshman class with a requirement--that you participate in a tutoring or student support. As is the case with other admission offers, offers of conditional admission may also include information on housing, financial aid, etc. Be sure to read all of this information. In addition, there may be a contract included that you’re required to sign, indicating you agree to adhere to the conditions of admission; suffice it to say, you’ll need to return that signed contract to the college by the indicated deadline. Make sure when you are in a program during your first semester, that your first semester grades are at a certain level, or that you come to campus sometime over the summer to participate in a college readiness program. These offers of admission are becoming more common, and they are not an “either/or” proposition--in other words, if you want to go to that college, you must satisfy the requirements outlined in the offer of admission.
A letter indicating you’ve been waitlisted usually comes all by itself. The letter indicates that the college is still considering your application, but must hear from the admitted students first before they may--again, that’s may--offer you admission.
Again, while it’s a little early to tell, there is a sense that the number of waitlisted letters is expected to be large this year--and that’s when things get tricky. Contacting the college doesn’t really move you up on the list that much--unless the college makes up its waitlist order only after they’ve heard from everyone, including the students on the waitlist.
Given the many different ways colleges approach waiting lists, I would suggest you do the following:
* Re-read the letter from the college to see if it gives you any information about the wait-list-- how the order is determined, when it is determined, and what you need to do to stay on it.
* If this information isn't in the letter (and often it isn't), call the college and ask them directly-- tell them you've been waitlisted, and ask them how and when the list is put together. They may give you some suggestions on what to do; if they do, write these suggestions down, since they are basically telling you how to improve your chances of moving up on the list.
* Next, it's decision time. Given the college options you have, do you still feel it's worth pursuing this college as a possible option-- remember, it may only be a possibility. As you think about this, it's *very* important to ask two questions--
1. If a slot doesn't open up at this college, what college will I select?
2. If a slot does open up at this college, what college will I select?
If the answer to these questions is the same, there's no point in pursuing the waitlist; you can either call the college and ask your name be removed from the waitlist, or you can wait and see what happens after May 1st.
* If your decision about which college to attend depends in part on financial aid, remember that the amount of aid available to students who are admitted off of the waitlist is usually limited. It can vary greatly from year to year, and from college to college, that’s another factor to keep in mind.
* If you decide you want to pursue a slot at the college that's waitlisted you, this is no time to be shy. Contact the college to let them know your continued interest. "I want you to know I am still very interested in attending College X this fall" sends a clear statement of where you stand and if College X is your first choice, you can say that as well (but remember only one first choice.) Some students will collect progress reports to show how they're doing in their high school classes, and others will send in extra letters of recommendation. All of that may help, but it's not a bad idea to ask first before sending too much material in-- remember, you want to show interest, but you don't want to drive them crazy.
The idea here is that you want to show continued interest in the school that is strong, but not too persistent. A couple of contacts between April 1st and May 1st isn't going too far, and one every day really is--so use good judgment.
* Finally, keep in mind that most colleges will not review their waitlist until after May 1st, which is the day you are expected to notify one--and only one--college that you’ll be going there in the fall. If April 30 comes around, and you’re still waiting to hear from a waitlisted school, you’ll want to put in the required May 1st deposit and notification at the college you’ll go to if the waitlist doesn’t work out somewhere else. If the college of your dreams pulls you off the waitlist later on, you’ll need to cancel your admission at the other college in writing--and there’s a good chance you won’t get your deposit back.
Not Offered Admission
News that a college cannot offer you admission also comes in a thin envelope. As I said before, colleges mean it when they say they wish they could offer you admission, and they value your work as a student; it’s just that colleges simply run out of room.
Can students appeal?
--Read your letter closely. These letters often explain both the procedures you need to follow to file an appeal, and the things colleges look for in reviewing an appeal. If your letter gives you no indication, call the office of admission and ask what their appeal policy is--and remember that some colleges will not take appeals except in very rare circumstances.
--See if you can find out why you were denied admission in the first place. A conversation with an admissions officer may give the college enough additional information about you to form the basis of an appeal. If the college needs more information, you can ask for specific information on what the college would like to see when you write your appeal--or, in some cases, you can find out if an appeal would not be the best use of your time.
--Generally speaking, colleges will look at an appeal closely if you can provide additional information above and beyond what you included in your original application that shows you are a strong and/or unique student. Seventh semester grades, progress reports from your current classes, additional letters of recommendation, a supporting paragraph or two from your counselor--these kinds of things can make a difference.
-- Remember that a successful appeal depends on a variety of factors--your strength as a student, your continued interest in the college, the number of spaces the college has available, etc. In some cases, continued interest and strong grades may be enough to get you in on appeal--but in some cases, it won’t. An appeal isn’t a sure thing, and the extra energy it requires to put an appeal together--not just yours, but the energy of your counselor, your teachers, and the college--can be high at this busy time of year. Before you start an appeal, be sure to think about your chances of success, and your real interest in the college, and let your answers guide you accordingly.
Lastly, three or four years of living and learning in high school should give you some strong clues about who you are and what you want from a school. Apply those core values –and some common sense-- to the college choice and decision, and you’ll find a perfect match, no matter what the numbers say.