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Rejected? Accepted? Handling College Admission Decisions

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How to Move Up and Off the Waiting List

Schools sometimes rank waiting lists. The higher your child ranks on the list, the better the chances of being accepted. Being wait-listed means the school has already determined your child has the academic credentials; so nonacademic factors are more likely to sway admissions officials. Encourage your child to send a compelling letter explaining why he wants to attend. He can indicate that if accepted he will enroll, but such a promise should be made only if he's absolutely certain. He can also enlist the help of an alumnus and his high school guidance counselor. Encourage him to schedule a second interview with admissions officials.

Schools will not decide who will be admitted off the waiting list until the May 1 decision deadline has passed. So you will need to prepare for your child to attend another school by filling out the paperwork and sending in a deposit. If your child is accepted off the waiting list, you will forfeit your deposit at the first school and be required to submit a deposit to the second.


Research shows that 9 out of 10 students get in to their first or second choice college, so it's likely that your child will soon see the fat envelopes piling up. Encourage your child to take time deciding which college to attend. Your child definitely shouldn't make a final choice until he's heard from every college he applied to, and he's probably not required to make any decision until the May 1 deadline.

Review College Criteria

Have your child go back and review his college selection criteria. Use College Board's College Search to compare schools side-by-side and determine how they match up with his requirements for size, distance, extracurricular activities and other factors. Revisit the schools if possible. Many colleges have "admitted-student days" when the school pulls out all the stops to convince students to attend. Encourage your child also to wander the campus alone, visiting a classroom, the dining hall, and other important spots to get a sense of the real life of the school.

Compare Aid Awards

Finally, there's funding to consider. Use the College Board's Compare Your Aid Awards page to determine which school best meets the financial needs of you and your child. It provides a side-by-side comparison (including the percentage of grant aid and loan for each award), and allows you to calculate your actual family share of costs at each college. The tool also provides an overview of alternate financing options.

Making the Final Decision

Now it's decision time. Having too many choices is a welcome quandary, but it can also be hard for a teenager to make what is perhaps the first independent decision of adult life. You can help out by reminding him there is no one perfect school. Statistics show that what your child does while in college matters more to future success than the name of the school on his sweatshirt.

If your child is having a hard time choosing, don't hedge your bets by sending a deposit to more than one school. This is unfair to admission officials and wait-listed students. It can also result in an acceptance being rescinded. Some schools share information and check for double depositing.

At last, the acceptance letter will go in the mail. The other colleges should get short thank-you notes declining their invitation to attend. Before you know it, the agonies of the college application process will be over and the adventure of freshman year begun. You've provided important support and groundwork along the way, helping to ensure that whatever school attended, your child is on the right road to success.

Comments from readers

"My child has been deferred from early admission to regular admission. What are the chances of getting accepted at this point?"
"My child has been deferred from early admission to regular admission. What are the chances of getting denied at this point? "
"I am also a mother of a 11th grader (American citizen) living abroad who is searching for a scholarship to attend college in the US. We are living now for three years abroad.He took the SAT last month an plan to do so next year again. He plans to take the GED also but I am overwhelmed by the application and financial aid processes. What to do?"
"Hi Pam M! I'm Rose, A seinor in highschool. i've already been accepted to my second chouice college on scholarship and am waiting to hear from my first. My advice is START NOW. I started looking at college applications the summer of my junior year and way before then. If your son knows where he wants to go have him look at the essay questions and start writing those now. It really helps once the process is underway. Also, have him do something this summer like an SAT prep course or a summer program at the school he wants to attened. this should give him an edga on the SAT or the college admission process."
"Hi My name is Pam M. my son is currently in the 11 grade when do i start the process for collage?"