Are you starting to hear back from colleges and universities that you applied to over the past few months? Congratulations to everyone that got into their dream schools, but if you’re someone that was put on the waitlist or rejected from your top choice school I’ll be discussing how to handle next steps to have clear plans to ensure you’re still on track to the future you’re striving for. If you work hard and are persistent, everything will be in order.
I’m Tiffany Phu, owner of California College and Career Consulting, helping hundreds of families over the past decade apply to post-secondary options saving time and money by planning for their right career path. For now, let’s get focus on what to do next if you’re waitlisted or rejected from your dream school.
First, I want to give you a big virtual hug and assure you that everything will be OK. I have seen some great students get rejected from their top choice schools not because they weren’t good enough, but because there were too many overly qualified applicants. The University of California (most applied to schools in the world) had the highest number of applications ever in the UC’s 154-year history drawing 210,840 first-year applications, a 3.5% increase over last year. Hence the competition is the highest it's ever been which means you need to be in at least the top 2-4% to have secured a spot for acceptance instead of the waitlist.
High grades and SAT/ACT scores are no longer enough. That's why having diversity of extracurricular background demonstrating expertise helps applicants stand out against the crowd.
Read directions from the individual institutions on how to handle your waitlist appeal. Some will ask for more information like a letter (advice below), BUT some will ask that you just opt into the waitlist and do NOT send more information. If they ask you to not reach out, then follow those instructions or else risk being automatically rejected.
Appeal Letter Advice (applies for waitlist & rejection):
Address counselor in kind way
Let them know you understand how competitive it was this year
Reaffirm your interest in the school by stating they're still your top choice
Be specific about why you are still interested
Check where you are on the waitlist
Mention any improvements/new information
Certificate/award since applying
New job/new project
Note: do NOT mention anything you already talked about
Thank them for their time
Alternatives to Your Dream School:
If you got into other schools, weigh your options carefully and be grateful. I work with students who want to get into the top 10 schools, but also still got into the top 25. Those options are still great. What truly matters is how hard you work, the network you build, and the consistency of work ethic. If none of the 4 year institutions sound enticing, transferring from a community college is always a great option especially to save money. It is estimated from the National Association for College Admission Counseling from 2003 to 2012 students who started at community college and transferred saved 20 billion dollars.
Additionally, research shows there is no significant difference between success of students starting at 4 year and peers starting at community college transfer. The following are successful and very famous people who transferred from a community college:
George Lucas: The director of Star Wars enrolled in Modesto Junior College in California, where he began shooting with an 8 mm camera. He would go on to transfer to and graduate from the University of Southern California.
Astronaut Eileen Collins: The first woman to pilot a space shuttle as well as the first in NASA history to command one. The path that led Collins to space began at Corning Community College in New York, where she earned an associate degree. She followed that up by earning a bachelor's degree in mathematics and economics from Syracuse University in New York and later tacked on a master's degree from Stanford University in California
Guy Fieri: Long before he became a Food Network star, Guy Fieri was a community college student attending American River College and College of the Redwoods, both in California, before earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Nevada—Las Vegas.
To summarize, if you are still determined to get into your dream school, I recommend thoughtfully appealing with the advice laid out above. If that doesn't work, then to review your options such as transferring or attending your second or third choice schools. Finally, you can always attend your dream school for graduate school. You'll find that after some time to reflect, your future is still bright as long as you keep working hard.