Denied Admission to College: What You Can Do

Last updated: Jul 1, 2020

Whether you received a single “no” from your dream school or a string of denials from all your target colleges, remember that you’re not alone. Many students are in your shoes, so we put together some simple steps to follow after you’ve been denied admission to college.

Remember, the most important question to ask isn’t why they said no. It’s what should you do now to get the college education you need?

Accept the Rejection

If you received a letter saying you were denied admission to college, it’s normal to feel disappointed. You invested lots of time and energy into your applications. Then you anxiously waited for replies.

Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t get the decision letter you were hoping for. This may be less of a reflection on your academic talent and more of an indication of the increasing competitiveness of college admissions. With more and more high school seniors applying to college every year, getting in to the most popular colleges has never been harder.  

Some people take comfort in knowing that the “we-regret-to-inform-you” letters are quite common. They are so common, in fact, that there is a ton of advice out there on how to deal with the bad news.

Take Time to Regroup

Closure matters, so mourn your loss. After you talk to friends and mentors about your disappointment and beat back the blues with hugs and shared pain, get rolling on what matters most: finding the school where you can achieve your long-term goals.

Start by asking yourself a simple question: What is my academic goal? The answer could be some version of “getting a college education that rounds me out socially and academically.” Make that your dream, and it will be much easier to find the upsides of attending one of your “yes” schools.

Revisit the offerings at schools that do want you, commit, and don’t be surprised if your pick turns out to have been your true dream school. And as you look for a new route to reach your ultimate goal, it might help to know that a lot of very successful people have been here and done this.

Above all, don’t let the bad news put your senior year in a tailspin. Hard work and a focus on your studies still matter.

Start Your Rebound Strategy

The next step is to put your “plan B” into practice and move forward with your new college application strategy. If you just can’t give up on your dream school yet, consider pursuing academic excellence elsewhere and then trying for a transfer to your top pick. Smart choices on courses and a stellar performance in the classroom at one of your other “yes” schools could give your academic résumé the muscle needed to open the door to your dream school.

There are some things to keep in mind when executing a transfer strategy:

  • Make sure your dream school accepts credits from the college you choose.
  • Make sure the initial school you pick will work for you if you decide to stay.
  • Make sure your course selection fits your overall needs.

If you just can’t refocus your energy on another school, see if your top pick is one of the few schools with an admissions appeal process. Know, though, that a reversal is extremely unlikely unless something unusual has happened. By unusual, we’re talking about an error such as your high school sending the wrong transcripts.

Starting from Scratch Is an Option, Too

Some people hit a dead-end with all their target schools. That changes the game but doesn’t end it. Find new targets, and get the paperwork moving again.

And if you were wait-listed by any of your initial picks, it’s time to reach out again. Stress your qualifications and let them know you are eager to commit. Show the college why you would make a great fit.

Father and son talking to a counselor about community college options

Consider a Gap Year

Taking a year off between high school and college to pursue education-oriented programs, travel, or service work is known as a “gap year.” Though the reasons for taking a gap year vary, there are some benefits, including extra time to prepare yourself for the academic and financial strain of college.

The key is to use this extra year wisely. Boost your chances of acceptance to your dream school by gaining experience and résumé content that can help you get accepted to your dream school the next time you apply.

If you are considering a gap year, keep in mind that your academic information, courses you take during a gap year, as well as requirements and ability to get admitted could change. Requirements are set yearly and scholarships for admission could change.

Weigh all of your options and talk over taking a gap year with your family before making your decision. A gap year may be the right choice for some students and not for others.

Look Into Community Colleges

Attending a community college for your first couple years of college is another option. They can be a great stepping stone or even final destination, depending on your degree path and career goals. These schools offer degrees and certificates and an opportunity to build a strong academic record.

Community colleges offer college-level courses, are accredited, and give you the opportunity to explore majors. Often, the cost of tuition at community colleges is also lower, and many state or public universities have partnerships with local community colleges. This gives students the opportunity to transfer to a participating university to complete their Bachelor’s degree.

If you’ve been denied admission to college and don’t know what to do, applying to a community college might be the right choice.

The Florida College System website says it best:

Florida’s 28 public colleges have a general open-door admissions policy for students who have a high school diploma or GED®. The colleges offer GED training and adult basic education, as well as certificate, associate and bachelor’s degree programs. Certificate and degree programs offered at the colleges range from auto mechanics to nursing to the associate in arts degree, which guarantees transfer to one of Florida’s 12 state universities or a Florida college offering four-year programs.

At USF, we offer a program to guide students from a Florida College System school to the USF System called FUSE. The FUSE program of USF helps students transferring from a participating Florida College System Institution into the USF System complete their Bachelor’s degree in a timely manner.

Our USF admissions advisors are happy to answer your questions about the USF admissions process, so contact us online or by phone at 813-974-3350.