“I Was Waitlisted and Rejected from Every School I Applied to. What do I do now?”

College acceptances are out, and, as happens every year, we’ve been flooded with emails from upset parents and freaked out kids. These are NOT emails from our clients. Our kids did amazingly. They killed it, getting into the Ivy League and other highly-competitive schools, receiving impressive scholarship packages, and invites to honors programs. Our only kids who only got one acceptance are those who got in ED and so didn’t submit any other applications. Again, NOT our clients.

To be fully transparent, I've never professional had to deal with this issue. Every year our students get into their top choices, but we've been receiving more and more emails from strangers asking what to do in this situation. 

We feel like we have a responsibility to educate, and most of our blog posts are targeted at readers outside of our client base. These days, many of those readers (2am frantic email senders) are parents and kids who are looking for support and guidance after what they expected to happen didn’t. They didn’t get in anywhere.

If this is your reality, we are so so so sorry. We really are. We honestly can't imagine the levels of anxiety you are feeling. You are in a scary position, and it makes sense to feel overwhelmed. Often it’s even harder for parents because you need to support your kid while dealing with grief yourself. Rejection can be crushing, especially unexpected rejection, and it’s easy to feel worthless — but you’re not. You probably just applied to the wrong schools or you didn't diversify your list. Where you end up going to school will not determine your self-worth. It will not limit your future. What you choose to do now, though, very well may.

Here are the five steps you should be taking right now if you were waitlisted or rejected by every school you applied to.

Don’t Wait For A Waitlist Decision.

We hope that you get in off of the waitlist at a school you are excited about, but you can’t just wait around for that to happen. Be proactive. Hope for the best and plan for the worst.

Look Into Schools That Offer January Admission

Not every school offers January admission, but plenty of great ones do. If you are dead set on going to college as soon as possible, look into this option asap.

Take A Kickass Gap Year

In much of Western Europe, taking a gap year isn’t just an option. It’s assumed. We wish it were the same way here. Ideally, you get into school, defer, and then take a gap year. However, you can absolutely choose to take a gap year and reapply to schools this coming fall/winter. Since you are not into a college yet, your gap year must consist of activities that are focused and that make you a stronger applicant. Backpacking around Europe is not an option. We recommend a highly-structured project that taps into your existing interests, like assisting with research at a local hospital or university. Finding these opportunities can take time, so start now.

You can also work. Gap years in the US has a reputation as an expensive luxury. This does not need to be the case and, for many students, a gap year is actually an opportunity to save money that can go towards college. Get a job, develop a passion, work hard, and reapply.  

Before You Reevaluate Your List, Reevaluate Yourself.

Your rejections and waitlist decisions weren’t random. There was a logic behind each decision. Much of it probably had to do with what the school was looking for, but they made their choices based on the information you gave them. Unless your SAT score was 1550 or above, or your ACT was 34 or above, you should probbaly consider retaking your tests. You won’t have the chance to raise your grades, so you need to do everything you can to improve your overall package.

Get Help for the Next Round

Getting into college can be tricky, but an expert can help.

Thousands of kids are a tough spot right now, and we want to help as much as we can by providing guidance through these kinds of posts. Luckily, this doesn’t happen to our kids. It can't, and we make sure of it. It may sound cocky, but hear me out. We don’t let our kids apply to unrealistic lists. We are brutally honest with our clients, and especially their parents, about what is possible. We control for the randomness of college admissions, and we are extremely risk-averse. But that doesn't mean we don't let kids apply to reach schools and dream schools. We just don't advise students with 28s on the ACT to apply to Yale because "you never know!!!" We do know. We don’t waste the Early Decision application on an impossible reach, and we don’t overplay our hand. Sure, our kids get rejected from schools, but they also get into better schools than they would have if they came up with their lists themselves.

This is especially true among our international clients, many of whom don’t have time to do college visits. They have to trust us 100% because, without us, they’re running blind. And yet, they defy the odds and beat the statistics. They even shock us, and we consider ourselves jaded. They get into great schools because they planned and trusted.

If you’re looking at a list of waitlists and rejections, take a deep breath. We want to help, and we want you to get into one of your dream schools too. This isn’t the end of the line; it’s just the beginning of a new adventure. Sure, the path may be more winding than you expected, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be transformed into a positive experience.