College Admissions: Decisions Are Out – Now What?

Dr. Paul Loweby Dr. Paul Lowe

Over the past three weeks, decisions have been steadily flowing in. Happily, I have been hearing “accepted” from my clients. Sadly, I also hear stories about rejections from many sources, including parents who call for post-decision advice, students who know of highly-qualified friends who were not admitted to their top-choice schools and even colleagues from high school guidance departments. This year, I am particularly happy because all of my clients were accepted to their top-choice schools. Some in enviable positions. A few examples, three clients accepted to Yale Early, another client accepted to Dartmouth, Duke, Vassar and Barnard; another client accepted to Brown and Princeton; and twins accepted to Carnegie Mellon. Several clients accepted to Combined BA/MD Programs – now I can call them “Doctors” even though they are still high school seniors.

I continue to receive calls from anxious parents who are shocked and are attempting to make sense of the results their children received, be it a rejection or waitlisted status (what I call Decision-Limbo). Many want to know what, if anything, can be done.

Here is the preliminary advice I generally provide during the post-decision period:

For waitlisted applicants:

1. Realize that you are waitlisted not rejected!

2. Re-brand yourself by reviewing your Common Application, supplements and student profile presented to schools to determine what’s missing, what else needs to be submitted and what may need clarification.

3. Show your commitment to the school.

4. Try to stand out and be different – try not to follow what everyone else is doing. I find that waitlisted students employing what they believe to be same sure-fire waitlisted tactics will sound “unique” just like everyone else which usually results in being moved to the rejection list.

For rejected applicants:

1. You’ve worked hard; you’ve given your best. You may say to yourself “that’s it”, decide to settle and attend your safety school and make the best of it. You may fall in love with your safety school.

Or maybe you believe that it really doesn’t matter where you attend college. I believe (and you may agree), that after all your hard work, you should continue to strive for your goals and dreams.

2. If you chose not to settle for your safety school:

a. Consider a Post-Graduate (PG) Year to improve on your overall high school profile.

b. Take a “gap year”. Plan wisely. If you are considering an organized gap year program, review how it will be helpful to you.

c. Contemplate transferring now. Enroll in your safety school, but begin the planning process now. If  you are considering transfer, you will need to maintain top grades for the rest of high school and  throughout your freshman year in college. As a prospective transfer student, you no longer have the  assistance of your public high school guidance or private high school college counselor. You’re basically on your own in a process that is even more competitive than when you applied to college  the first time!

My advice to parents of juniors or juniors themselves who are reading this blog and will be applying this fall:

The number of applicants, competing for these coveted slots at the Elite Eight and top-tier colleges, continues to grow. Admission to these schools remains hypercompetitive. In my experience, the students who are accepted are those who can standout and lucidly articulate their achievements, goals and personalities. As future contributing members of an incoming class, you must project yourself in a positive light to a committee of six to ten diverse people! You certainly don’t want to be among the 90 – 95% of waitlisted or rejected applicants who are “unique” just like everyone else.

Dr. Paul Reginald Lowe is the managing director and lead admissions expert at Greenwich Admissions Advisors. Tel. (203) 542-7288.

Dr. Lowe is an active member of several professional organizations including: the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA), the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), the New York Association for College Admission Counseling (NYACAC), the New Jersey Association for College Admission Counseling (NJACAC), the Overseas Association for College Admission Counseling (OACAC), and NAFSA: Association of International Educators, American Foreign Service Association
(AFSA), and the Admissions Leadership Consortium (ALC).