If you submitted early college applications, some decisions are rolling in now (some won’t come until later). You’re no doubt doing a happy dance if you were accepted, scratching your head if you were deferred, and nursing your wounds if you were denied.
Regardless of your situation, we’ve got tips about what you need to do now. Remember – it isn’t truly over until you’ve arrived at college next fall!
If you were ACCEPTED:
1. Share the happy news with your high school counselor and your recommenders and thank them.
2. If you applied EARLY DECISION, then you are bound to accept the college’s offer and you should do the following:
3. If you applied EARLY ACTION, then you have some decisions of your own to make because you are not bound to accept the college’s offer.
If you were DEFERRED
1. Treat your deferral as a second chance. Being deferred is a bit disappointing, but you haven’t been denied. Instead, you have a second chance to be admitted! Your deferred application will be reconsidered in the regular round of decision making. Assuming you have continued on a positive course in the first part of your senior year, you have new information that can and will make the application you've already submitted even better.
2. Update your application in one go. Rather than sending things in dribs and drabs, assemble all your updates into one package of materials and submit them all together with a short and polite cover letter. That way, all the updates together will make a cohesive and persuasive statement about you. (Sending updates individually also makes it more likely that something will be misfiled or lost.) If that college remains your first choice, make sure to reiterate that in your cover letter.
3. Use good judgment about what to send in your update. Here are the five kinds of updates that can help your deferred application (listed in order from most influential to least influential):
You can, of course, also submit other kinds of updates, like additional essays, recommendations, or supplementary materials. But we're not as enthusiastic about encouraging you to submit those, because those kinds of updates get mixed reviews from admissions officers. They tend to be more of the same, and they usually serve only to make your file fatter and more time-consuming for an already harried admissions officer to get through.
If you were DENIED
1. Wallow in your misery for a short time and then move on. No question that being denied by a college where you applied feels bad. So let yourself feel bad for a little bit. Allow yourself as much as 48 hours to rant, rave, cry, or be grumpy. You just don’t want to get stuck here.
2. Then regroup quickly. Remember life isn’t over and you can go onto a perfectly wonderful future. So dust yourself off and get back in the game. You still have the option of applying to other colleges for their Regular Decision or Rolling deadlines. Sometimes we take a shot and we miss. We all do at one point or another. Don't quit now...tap into your inner resilience and keep going.
3. Do some deep analysis of what went wrong this time. Then set about doing it differently. Was that school a long shot because of your credentials? Do you have newer, better credentials that you can showcase for your next batch of schools? Do you have a more realistic list of schools to pursue? Did you lose steam when you got to the application forms themselves? What can you do better or differently going forward? Do you need to take a gap year to fix bigger problems? Consider both your short-term and long-term options.
Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.