Moving Forward After Rejection and The Wait List

Dear Estelle. By April 1 the results were in. Rejection letters arrived from my two top schools, I was wait listed at my next favorite and accepted at all the rest. I am so disappointed. My credentials should have qualified me for every school on my list but somehow something didn’t resonate with admissions at my top choices. Knowing my chances are slim, I have vigilantly pursued the waitlist by returning the “still interested” card and told them it was my “first choice.” I’ve sent in my most recent grades plus a few additional awards I’ve received. I revisited the school. Knowing the wait list is a long shot, what steps should I take now to ensure that I make a good choice that will guarantee me a quality education for the next four years.? Time is ticking away.
LL Kent, Denver

First of all, it wasn’t you personally that was rejected! Just to assure you that your numbers were excellent and you would have been successful academically at your top choices, let me tell you about the numbers of applications the most selective schools received this year.

  • Brown, an always popular school, had 32,724 applications, an all-time high, and admitted 2,722, including 695 who were admitted Early Decision, for an admit rate of 8.3 per cent.
  • Columbia, attracted 37,389, the largest applicant pool in history, and admitted 5.8%.
  • Cornell admitted 12%, 5,889, out of an applicant pool of 47,038 and wait listed 5,713.
  • Dartmouth admitted 10% from a pool of 20,021.
  • Penn admitted 9% from an applicant pool of 40,413 , a total of only 3,699.
  • Princeton, 6%, 1,890, from a pool of 31,056. Over a third were accepted in December under the university’s SCEA (single choice early action). The targeted class size is 1,308. Admission standards were the same for both groups. Also 50.5% of the admits were women, the highest ever in Princeton history.
  • Yale attracted 32,900 applications and offered admission to 2,272. Over the next 4 years Yale plans to expand its enrollment from 5,400 to 6,200vwith the opening of two new colleges on campus.
  • Harvard received a record 39,506 applications and accepted just 5%, 2056 including 938 early action accepted last December.
  • Stanford received 44,000 apps and accepted 2,050 including 721 Early Action; USC,16%; Johns Hopkins admitted about 10%; Northwestern, 9%; MIT, 7.1%: Swarthmore, 15%: Duke, 7% regular decision and 24.5% early decision.

Reviewing these statistics, we find that schools are making a major effort to attract more students of color, international, economically disadvantaged, and first generations. Numerous other colleges and universities across the country record similar increases. GPA’s and test scores are exceedingly high and the numbers of applicants continue to soar. This is the competition and there’s just so many spaces for admitted students in these schools..

This shows how difficult the selection process has become at the very selective schools and how it’s trickling down to those colleges and universities which are equally excellent but accepting only 20-30% of their applicants.

So, at this point it’s important to stop grieving over the rejections and select your school from all those that remain. Do your research and decide which of the remaining “accepted” schools becomes your first choice. When my clients put together a list of schools, they may have a favorite or two but all options should be considered keepers. The top 50 schools are extremely competitive and I encourage students to apply with the knowledge that their odds are extremely low as noted by the statistics posted above.

How do you select your #1? Revisit your list and consider why you selected those schools in the first place. Location, major, size, basketball? What made it a great fit? Hopefully your’ve attended admitted students’ events which have been held locally this month around Denver. Go to Facebook and visit with current and admitted students. Perhaps by now you’ve revisited the schools and stayed in the dorm. There are over 3,000 schools in the country and you could easily be happy at 50. Examine your emotions and try to figure out what feels good to you. Could you be happy there for four years. Make a decision by May 1 and be happy with your choice.

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