As students start hearing from their early, rolling, and priority decision colleges in the next few months (you can view B2A’s list of expected release dates here), it can be difficult and overwhelming to consider what comes next. Depending on the decision you receive, there are several steps you can take, and understanding how to respond to these different outcomes is crucial.
If you are accepted:
1. Assess your options
On average, students apply to 10-15 schools. If your acceptance is not binding, avoid immediately committing to a school, especially if you are still waiting on decisions from other colleges. Once you have received all offers, you can carefully weigh the pros and cons of each before making your final decision (typically by May 1st). Some colleges may even allow you to pay a non-refundable deposit in order to secure certain advantages like better housing options. If your family is interested and able to do so, you could pay these deposits and then decide later which college you will actually attend.
2. Continue your research
Now that you’ve been accepted, you’ll want to determine that this school is the best possible fit for you. Take into consideration all factors (academic, extracurricular, financial, etc.) and continue your research to ensure your goals align with what the school and program offers.
3. Consider your finances
Although many schools send financial aid offers around the same time as they send out acceptances, this may vary, especially with the delay of the 2024-25 FAFSA. Before committing, you’ll want to carefully review your financial aid package (don’t forget to account for cost of living and other factors). Scholarship deadlines are year-round, so you can continue searching and applying for aid.
4. Maintain your academic and extracurricular involvement
Remember that colleges can request your official high school transcript upon graduation, so now is the time to finish strong with your academics! Keeping up with your classes and activities throughout senior year will also ease your transition to the rigor of college life. Make sure to send your mid-year report to your colleges if needed as well.
If you are deferred or waitlisted:
1. Write a letter of continued interest or fill out update forms
One of the most effective things you can do after being deferred or waitlisted is to write a strong letter of continued interest. This letter should reemphasize your desire to attend the school and provide new information that supports your profile (improved GPA, awards, publications, personal projects, leadership roles, etc.). Some colleges, like MIT will ask for an update form in place of a letter. Check your school’s preferred method by contacting their admissions office or looking at their admissions website.
2. Sign up for (optional) interviews
Many colleges offer the opportunity for students to schedule in-person or virtual interviews. Taking advantage of this opportunity demonstrates genuine interest and commitment to a school. It also provides a chance for you to showcase your personality, interests, and goals in a more informal setting. If you do sign up for an interview, it is important to prepare by researching the school and program and practicing potential responses.
3. Consider applying Early Decision 2
If you have been deferred or rejected from your ED1 school (or, if you didn’t apply to an ED1 school), you may consider applying ED2, which communicates to that school that they are your first choice. If you’ve already applied to a college’s Regular Decision plan, you may also be able to switch that application to ED2. However, remember that Early Decision plans are binding, so only apply ED2 if you are absolutely certain you want to enroll at that school (and if you are prepared to meet the corresponding financial obligation). ED2 deadlines are typically in early January, so be prepared to move quickly. Below are a few schools that offer ED2 and their deadlines:
Boston University: 1/4
Case Western Reserve University: 1/15
Emory University: 1/1
Harvey Mudd College: 1/5
Johns Hopkins University: 1/2
Northeastern University: 1/1
University of Chicago: 1/2
Vanderbilt University: 1/1
If you are rejected:
1. Reassess your list (important if you’ve been deferred as well)
Rejections are a normal part of the college admissions process—if your application is rejected, you can use this as an opportunity to reassess your college list and ensure it is well-balanced. To maximize your admissions success and achieve a range of offers, consider applying to more regular decision or rolling admission schools that are categorized as matches or safeties for your individual profile.
2. Strategize to improve your profile (important if you’ve been deferred as well)
If your early, rolling, or priority decisions are less favorable than expected, view this as an opportunity to enhance your profile for regular and rolling admissions and/or letters of continued interest. Reflect on how you’ve grown during the past semester and identify ways you can add to your profile in the coming weeks and months (you can seek out leadership positions, take on more community service, or pursue extracurricular or academic achievements). You can rework your personal statement or improve upon your activity descriptions to showcase yourself better. Assess the quality of your recommenders as well – perhaps you have grown closer to a teacher, mentor, or supervisor throughout the year. If they are already your recommender, you can talk to them about your results. If they aren’t your recommender for colleges yet, consider changing your recommenders for your remaining deadlines.
3. Write an appeal
Many colleges offer students the opportunity to appeal their admission decision. Often this includes writing an appeal letter that provides context that was missing from your original application or significant updates in your academics or extracurriculars (ex: improved GPA or test scores, awards, leadership experiences, etc.). Before submitting an appeal, carefully review the school’s appeals process and procedures.
For many students, this phase of the admissions process can be the most challenging and stressful. By employing these kinds of strategic responses, students can navigate the college admissions process with confidence and clarity. No matter what decisions you receive during this time, remember that every student’s journey is unique—be sure to celebrate your successes as you work toward finding the best fit for your future!
Our B2A Counselors would love to celebrate your acceptances and/or re-strategize your applications after deferrals and rejections. Please contact our offices to schedule 1:1 meetings to decide what your next steps are to ensure you get the most out of your college applications.