(US News) By Brian Witt —
There are two potential advantages to early decision and early action. If it succeeds, you gain entry to your first-choice college with a single application. If not, you gain valuable data that will improve your regular admissions chances.
If you fall into the second group and find yourself having to scramble, don’t despair – you already have great material to work with. In just a few steps, you’ll be on your way to securing a spot at an excellent school.
• Determine whether you were deferred or rejected: Most schools with early decision or early action programs distinguish between deferral and rejection. The letter you have received should clarify which status applies to your application.
If your application was rejected, you’ll have to wait until the following year to reapply. This can be difficult to hear, but you still have a options available to you, from applying to other schools to reapplying to your top-choice school next admission cycle.
If you were deferred, you will be automatically entered into the regular-admission pool without having to resubmit your application. Note you should still submit applications to other schools.
Be sure to contact the admissions office to reaffirm your interest in the institution. You can communicate via email, but a letter or telephone call may better demonstrate your sincerity.
When you speak to the admissions office, ask if the school will accept supplements to your existing application packet. If they will, it’s essential to demonstrate your continuing progress, such as improved test scores or strong first-semester grades.
• Broaden your reach: It is essential that you broaden your scope beyond your single early admission school. Consider the aspects that most drew you to this institution. List them out, and use this list as a guide when choosing other colleges.
For instance, if you applied to an elite, national university, you might consider a top regional school instead. While the name recognition may be less immediate, you may gain a stronger alumni network at that regional university.
If the strength of a particular major or program drew you to your top-choice school, focus your search around this area. There are very few disciplines that are ultimately restricted to one university.
If your interests are very narrow, a college with a strong independent studies program may be a fitting alternative. If possible, speak with potential faculty mentors to ensure that you will have advocates for your plan.
In one telling example, Jeff had always dreamed of studying physics at the University of Chicago, where much of the work on the Manhattan Project was accomplished. When he was denied early admittance, he was crushed, but he was also determined to pursue his dream of physics regardless.
He realized that a large state school he had disdained had a Nobel-prize winning physicist on staff, as well as a top-notch undergraduate research program. He decided to apply and quickly accepted the institution’s offer for admission.
• Strengthen your pitch: As you prepare to move ahead, take a moment to look back at your early decision or early admission application. Were there any weaknesses?
If you aren’t sure, ask a guidance counselor or mentor to help you evaluate your materials. Make a plan to address any portions of your application that could make you less competitive. If your test scores reflect a lower percentile than your GPA, for instance, investigate whether you can improve these results.
If you’re worried that your GPA or the quality of your transcript is an issue, you may be able to include your fall semester results. Admissions officers often care more about an upward trajectory than they do simple averages.
Doing well after a difficult start demonstrates grit and determination, as well as an ability to adapt. These features are very valuable in prospective college students.
Above all, don’t give up. By this point, you already have an entire college application completed – you’re well ahead of the game. Keep going and maintain a positive attitude – soon you’ll find a school that will challenge and help you grow.