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Early Decisions: Yes, No, or Maybe

Posted on 12/14/2016, by Dr. Ellen Fithian to Parents of 12th Graders (0 comments)


Within just a few days, some students who applied to an early decision or early action college will learn their fate.  For some, the news will be their first Christmas present and the beginning of a respite from the weary grind of applying to college. But other students will face the uncertainty of having been deferred, or worse – the certainty that they will not be attending the college of their dreams. This can be a difficult blow for teens, and they may need some time and space to recover.  Be understanding and patient, but don’t let them grieve too long, because if they didn’t get accepted to their first choice college, they’re not done applying. My suggestions for next steps follow.

If Your Child is Accepted

Congratulations and happy holidays!

Students accepted to an early action school are permitted to apply to other colleges, and should now review their college list to evaluate which ones they still want to consider.  As a favor to other applicants, however, I encourage them to withdraw their applications from any college they are sure they would not attend.

Students who’ve been accepted to an early decision program are required to withdraw other applications, and should do so promptly.

If Your Child is Deferred

Applicants who’ve been deferred from First Choice U are understandably disappointed, but the good news is that they’ll get a second chance in the regular decision pool. Prudent next steps for them fall into two categories:

1. Work to improve their admission chances at First Choice U by doing the following: Send an update to the admissions office to restate their interest and note any accomplishments they’ve accrued since they submitted the early application. Now that the Common Application and many others are entirely electronic, your teen may have to call the admissions office to ask how to submit such information. Finally, he should aim for the highest possible first semester grades. These can be a deciding factor for deferred students.

2. Develop a Positive Plan B: Although deferred students have reason to hope they’ll eventually be accepted to First Choice U, they also need to face the very real possibility that they won’t be. Now is the time for them to carefully review their college list to make sure it includes colleges in the reach, likely, and safety categories that they would be genuinely happy to attend.

If Your Child is Denied

Being rejected can be extremely distressing for a student. The realization that her dream of attending a certain college will not come true is painful. On top of that, she now faces the prospect of spending her winter break filling out applications and writing more essays instead of celebrating. It’s a bitter pill, but fortunately, most teens are surprisingly resilient. And the silver lining is that by virtue of learning her fate at her dream college early, your teen has time to find and apply to other schools that not only match her interests but will be delighted to welcome her as a freshman. 

Helping Top Students Deal With Disappointment

Top students who’ve been deferred or denied from an ultracompetitive college often have an especially difficult time dealing with the bad news. Teens who’ve taken every advanced course available to them and excelled, have aced their standardized tests and ruled their schools may experience nothing less than an existential crisis. What was it all for? And what is wrong with them?

Parents can be equally distraught as they deal with their own disappointment and the incredulity that, perhaps for the first time ever, their child has been unsuccessful.  Here’s my advice to families in these circumstances.

First, remind yourself that a competitive college admissions committee does not set out to reward the “best” or most deserving students. It’s assembling a diverse, vibrant community made up of students with a variety of backgrounds, personalities, and talents. (For more on this topic, read Ultracompetitive Colleges. ) Further, the competitive admissions process is subjective and somewhat capricious.  I’ve seen many students who were deferred or denied at their first competitive college go on to be accepted to that one, and/or several others, in the spring. So don’t give up hope.

On the other hand, don’t completely rely on it, either. If your son has been deferred or denied from a top college, now is the time for you and him to critically examine whether he was truly a competitive applicant. Compare his test scores, GPA and class rank to those of accepted applicants to the school. If you conclude that he’s a marginal candidate at a top tier college, find some great schools that are a little more accessible. Act quickly, however, and look for colleges whose application deadlines are in January (preferably after the 1st since high schools will be on break until the 2nd.) To review recommendations on creating a college list, read Compose the List.

Best of luck to everyone and hang in there - the college application process is almost over.


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Posted on 12/14/2016, by Dr. Ellen Fithian (0 comments)

 

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