Early Decision Didn’t Work Out For You. What Now?
First of all, I’m really sorry. It can be devastating. You wanted to attend that college so much that you were willing to commit. And they rejected you. There are no two ways about it: It is painful. You imagined yourself putting the name of that institution on your resume for the rest of your life. Now, what will go in that spot is unknown.
Let yourself grieve. It’s a loss like many others. Kübler-Ross’s model of grief has five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. In your case, you are probably alternating between sadness and anger. Right now, anger is the most useful (not that you can control how you move through the stages). Get pissed off. Scream, cry, rant, and rave. They didn’t want you as much as you wanted them. They don’t know what they are missing out on. It’s their loss, not yours. They are over you. Now you get over them. Hrmph. Get it all out. Because, as a high school student who needs to get admitted somewhere, you unfortunately don’t have a lot of time to get moving again. (Be sure to gather all the swag you accumulated and donate it to your favorite charity.)
- First, reexamine the money situation. Time to get serious. You want to graduate from college with as little debt as possible. The average college student now has over $30K in loans when they walk across that stage at graduation. You do not want to be one of them. You can go in debt for graduate school when the return on investment is better.
- Take another look at the sizes of the entering classes at the schools on your list. Are they small, medium, big? What size suits you best? How many people do you want to enter with? Graduate with? Go to reunions with? 100, 500, 1,000, 10,000? These numbers play a big role in the experience at and beyond college.
- Reconsider the distance to and from the schools on your list. Would you do better to shorten the travel time to get home?
- Take another look at student support services at the schools of your choice. Over 50% of students who enter college do not leave with a degree, so support is essential. What’s the advising system like? Tutoring? Is there a learning center for undergraduates?
- Accessibility of the faculty: How many courses of fewer than 20 students will you be in the first year? (This is not advertised; you have to ask current students – and not students who work in admissions offices.) How many courses in the first two years are taught by graduate students and not tenured faculty? You want access to faculty. I cannot stress this enough.
- Have your academic interests shifted? Do the schools on your list have what you want? How many professors teach in the majors that interest you? Take a look at their web pages. Do they interest you?
- What is the housing situation? Can you live in the dorms for four years or do you have to move off campus after the first year?
- Is there an alumni database you can access as a student for the purposes of informational interviewing, internships, and other professional connections? How up to date is it? Again, you have to ask current students this question.
- What about experiential or service learning? Is there an office for that? How important is community engagement on the campus?
In answering these questions, your list should be more refined and more, well, YOU!
Now, pay yourself on the back. You have overcome a rejection and moved on. Celebrate. Hug your parents. And be proud of how well you have done.