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Don’t Dread the College Denial Letter

December 17, 2009 By: Category: Admissions insider, Application tips, College requirements

This is a crazy time of year.  Thousands of colleges around the country are reading thousands of applications for students who are putting their hopes and dreams into an envelope (well … nowadays an e-mail account) and hoping for the best.

The unfortunate downside of reviewing so many applications is often times students are either not ready, or not a good fit for some of the colleges they are applying to.  This should not deter a you from applying to the school(s) you are interested in attending … in fact, it should encourage you to do your research, and prioritize your schools based on “fit” over “rank”.


Photo by satguru 

Too many times I get phone calls, e-mails, and questions from students at college fairs that seem designed to find out if the student will meet our college requirements and “get in”.  These include:

  • What is your minimum GPA?
  • What is your minimum SAT or ACT?

Asking what the minimum college requirements are tells me as a counselor that you are searching for a school that accepts exactly your GPA and SAT/ACT score … and you are not trying to find a school that is a solid fit for you as a student.  Are these good questions to ask?  Sure.  But they should not be your first question.

The other thing I have noticed is students calling and asking why they were wait listed or denied by their top choice schools … and what they can do to get in.  This is a good thing if you approach it the right way … but can go south really quickly if you don’t handle yourself professionally.

If you are wait listed or denied and are on the phone with an admissions officer, remember that down the line they will ultimately make the decision to accept you later.  If you have ever watched the movie Rudy, you know the story of a football player whose dream was to play for Notre Dame.  He did not meet the stringent college requirements of Notre Dame at the time of his application .  Rather than give up, he went to the Junior College nearby and applied again as a transfer student.  He was denied again.  Did he give up?  Of course not.  He continued to work hard and improve his grades until ultimately he met the academic criteria for the school.

The lesson here is, if you are wait listed for your top choice school and are very serious about attending … Follow through.  The University of New Haven for example offers tips to students that are wait listed right on their website.  Submit first and second marking period grades, take the SAT or ACT again, ask for an admissions interview … Show the school you truly want to attend.

If you are denied from your top choice school, do not get upset.  I know it is hard to look at it this way; but think of it as an opportunity to improve yourself.  Take a lesson from Rudy (which is based on a true story, by the way).  Apply again the following year with improved grades from a community college.  Show the school that you truly do belong.

Don’t dread the denial letter.  Embrace it.