Accepted, Rejected, Wait-Listed — Now What?

Today’s guest post is by college guru and Getting In! co-author Steve Cohen. For expert information on college admissions, financial aid, and more, order your copy of Getting In! today.

It’s decision time in the college admissions world. Students are hearing from their dream schools and their safeties. Some hear via e-mail while others open mailboxes to find thick or thin envelopes. Some students will be thrilled; others still in limbo as they deal with rejections and, more problematically, the wait-list.

So what do you do now?

If You’ve Been Accepted

Avoid Sticker Shock – College is expensive; you already know that. Private college will cost more than $200,000 over the next four years. And public universities will cost about $80,000. Happily, those are “list” prices. The actual price you pay should be somewhat less – even if you are in a middle-class family earning $150,000 a year.

If you applied for financial aid, you should have received a financial aid award package along with the congratulatory admission letter. Compare the offers from each school that you were admitted to. See how much of each package is comprised of grants (scholarships); loans – subsidized and unsubsidized; and work study. The difference between what the college will provide and how much you actually have to lay out for tuition, room, board, books, and general living expenses is what is called the expected family contribution (EFC). This is your real cost.

Whether you meet that EFC depends on your family’s financial situation, but know two things:

1. There is money available – in the form of loans – to help you meet that expected family contribution; and

2. College financial aid officers have considerable leeway to adjust the package they award you.

Pick up the phone and call the college’s financial aid office. Find a human being and make that person your newest best friend. They have the discretion to exercise “professional judgment.”

Send in a deposit – Don’t forget to send in a deposit by the common deadline of May 1. And make sure you send in a deposit to only one school. Colleges have been known to withdraw acceptances if families try to game the system by sending in deposits to more than one school. You can negotiate right up until that deadline with various schools’ financial aid offices. But you have to make a decision by the deadline date. If you hesitate too long and miss the deadline, you seriously risk losing that guaranteed spot of admission.

If You’ve Been Wait-Listed

Many schools actually factor the waitlist into their admission strategy. They know they won’t completely fill their class from the early and regular admit pools. Being off on their yield projection (the percentage of admitted kids who actually choose to enroll at that particular college) by just 1% could mean taking 30 kids off the waitlist for an entering class of 1000. So if you end up on a waitlist (or two,) and want to get off the waitlist and onto the admit list, plan on being proactive.

How to get noticed – Let the college know you really want to attend that particular school. E-mail them, call them, and have your high school’s guidance counselor contact them. Some colleges give you a very short deadline to decide whether you want to be considered to come off the waitlist. If they give you a 24 or 48 hour window to decide, realize that if you don’t take them up on it, the offer will go to the next kid on the waitlist. Decide quickly.

If You Didn’t Get in Anywhere

There are always options. A surprising number of schools look for applicants at the last minute. And some are pretty good colleges that find themselves looking for kids after the May 1st deposit deadline. They were simply off by a few percentage points in their yield projections. Although these schools didn’t make your initial application list, you should give them a fresh look. At the very least they can be places where you can prove yourself academically for a year and then transfer.

Make the guidance counselor your best friend – Often times when a student doesn’t get into the college of their choice the family takes it out on the high school guidance counselor. That is misplaced anger. The guidance counselor wasn’t in the admission committee room as they discussed the college’s particular institutional needs that particular year. And in most cases, the guidance counselor feels as bad as you do. But occasionally, the guidance counselor suggested a bit more realism about your college choices. And parents – more often than kids — just didn’t want to hear.

So if you’ve been waitlisted or need to find a school, the guidance counselor will be your best resource. They have credibility and access that you don’t, and who knows, they might be able to get you off that list and into a college!

Have a question about your student’s acceptance letter? Leave it in a comment below and college expert Steve Cohen will give some insight.

This feature was originally published by Forbes; click here to read the article in its entirety.

written by
Guest Blogger
April 24, 2012

5 Responses to “Accepted, Rejected, Wait-Listed — Now What?”

  1. haleema
    April 30, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    thanks it was very helpful

  2. Dana
    April 30, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    My son has tried to get into a university to finish classes to apply to pharmacy school. He was denied taking just the genetics class he needs b/c he was a “transient”/nondegree-seeking student. He applied to seek a degree and was told try again. This university offered concurrent enrollment option with the 2 yr college has earned 2 associates degrees from…With whom should he try to speak to get some answers about what he can do to get in?

    • Steve Cohen
      May 1, 2012 at 2:11 pm #


      Dana — This sounds incredibly frustrating for both you and your son. (My son and I experienced something similar, so I truly empathize.) My suggestion is that your son sit down with the registrar of the college he needs those final credits from — and really seek the registrar’s advice about how to solve the problem.

      It sounds like there is one other problem: what colleges refer to as a “residency” requirement. Very simply, colleges want a certain amount of tuition from a student before granting a degree.

      Alternatively, your son should talk with the registrar at the community college where he got his two associates degrees. Again, explain the problem and see whether it is possible to take the genetics course elsewhere, but have the two-year college give him credit for it.

      Good luck.


  3. Marie
    May 4, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    My daughter was accepted to a college 2 yrs ago with a nice scholarship. She declined because she decided not to go away to school. Now 2 years later, she had decided to transfer to the same university. She was accepted, however the scholarship this time is 1/2 the amount. How do we go about trying to get more scholarship money and enough financial aid for her to attend this costly school?

  4. Steve Cohen
    May 9, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    A very tricky situation! Many colleges award more money to incoming freshmen in part because they know that family will be incurring a full four years of expenses. Your daughter, as a transfer student, will only be at the school for two years. That means less tuition revenue from you over the duration of your daughter’s tenure. It is worth contacting the college’s financial aid office, explaining the family’s financial situation, and simply asking for more help. Financial aid officers do have some latitude in the offers they make and can exercise professional discretion. It doesn’t hurt to ask — nicely!

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