I Got Deferred, Waitlisted, or Rejected From My Dream School. Now What?
It happened. Mid-December, you opened that e-mail. Even if you didn’t expect to get in to your dream school, it was a letdown when it didn’t happen. Maybe you’re mad. But that won’t help you as you go forward with your applications. So, as you continue, we advise that you:
Mentally accept that if you’re applying to competitive schools, this was likely to happen—and that you are still a smart person.
If your “dream school” has a low acceptance rate and you didn’t get in the early action or early decision program, do not despair. The truth is that the rejection had little to do with you personally. More likely, it had everything to do with the fact that schools with low acceptance rates reject a lot of qualified candidates in order to maintain a low acceptance rate. While that advice may not make you feel much better, it’s absolutely critical to not lose hope and belief in your own ability as a student.
Part of the reason why is that you may end up attending a school that’s a better fit, or, ironically, has a higher U.S. News & World Report ranking, if that is your metric for good (we would disagree on that last point, but others hold different opinions). However, that positive outcome is more likely to happen if you are resilient (see below).
Consider why your “dream school” is your dream, and go forward accordingly.
Too many students choose a school only because they like watching the sports team, have a lot of their logowear, or have friends and family that go there.
If that describes you, then you’re not alone. But perhaps you should take this deferral and reconsider whether the school is actually a “dream” fit for you. If it isn’t, apply elsewhere and don’t look back—very probably, there are dozens of colleges that are a good fit that are happy to have you this year.
While it is perfectly fine to want to go to a particular college in part for any of the reasons listed above, remember that a lot of your time is going to be spent going to class, studying, and interacting with your peers. As such, your top choice school should have a degree program you care about and you should generally get a good vibe from the other students when you visit. Obviously, you can only get a limited sense of these things from overnight visits and conversations with current students, but your gut feeling is generally correct.
If you read that last bolded sentence and were thinking “yeah, I know that… that’s why I applied,” then… great! Before April, consider visiting the school (or visiting again, if there is a specific class, program, or event you didn’t get to see the first time) and writing your regional admissions officer an e-mail to follow up regarding your interest in the school. While you shouldn’t harass the representative with dozens of emails, a follow-up never hurts.
Consider a Gap Year.
If you were rejected from (or end up being rejected from) from a particular school and you earnestly believe there is no other college you want to go to, consider taking a gap year.
It’s entirely possible that you will be admitted next year, and not this year, for reasons beyond your control. In any case, some work experience or an independent study project won’t weaken your application for next year.