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  • Writer's pictureJessica Chermak, CEP, LPC

Understanding College Decisions and Next Steps

As colleges and universities send out their admission decisions, it’s important to understand the nuances of different decision results and the next steps you can take. While some admission results will be straightforward, others might have limitations or requirements tied to the college's decision. Below are the most common results for a high school student's application:

Accepted/Admitted: If you receive an acceptance letter, it means you’ve been admitted to the institution. Some letters will indicate that you’ve been admitted to your intended major, while others may say that you were admitted to a pre-major or admitted to the school but not the major you listed on the application. And yet, there are still other nuances in acceptances! Some letters might indicate that you’re admitted but for a summer or spring start. Others may be offering conditional acceptance as a sophomore if you complete your freshman year elsewhere (Cornell University is a primary culprit of this kind of offer). Be sure to read the letter in its entirety to understand your acceptance.

Rejected/Not Admitted: This one is pretty self-explanatory: the school has reviewed your application and was unable to offer you admission to their incoming class.

Waitlist: It’s becoming more and more commonplace for schools to admit students to their waitlist instead of deferring (which you can read about below), admitting, or rejecting an application. The waitlist is typically a list of students who they believe can be successful in their school but that they don’t have space for in the incoming class until they know who else will choose to enroll. Some schools admit a large portion of students off the waitlist, while others don’t admit any or just a select few. Colleges won’t tell you which position you are on the waitlist because many schools only go to the waitlist to fulfill various institutional priorities after the enrollment deadline (May 1st for most colleges). Students can choose whether or not they stay on the waitlist–there’s no guarantee that staying on will lead to an offer of admission.

Deferred: If you applied Early Action (EA) or Early Decision (ED) and subsequently received a deferral to the regular decision round, it means they haven’t made a decision yet about your application. This can happen for many reasons: the school may not have had time to read all of the early applications; they may want to see the mid-year grade report to ensure that your positive grade trend is sustainable; or they may want to see your application in the context of the rest of the applicant pool. What’s most important to remember is that some schools only accept or defer in the early rounds without sending out any rejections. In those cases, the deferral is typically a “soft rejection” and it’s best to focus your energies on the other school options you might have on the table. In the case of schools that defer a small portion of the early applicants, then it’s important to continue to demonstrate interest. Some schools report this data in their Common Data Set (which can be found by Googling “[Institution name] Common Data Set”).

If you are deferred, many schools will request or allow you to submit a Letter of Continued Interest (LOCI). You can read about how to write a LOCI here.

Good luck (but I know you won't need it),

Jessica Chermak, LPC, CEP

Independent College Counselor

Co-Founder of Virtual College Counselors

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