The Decision is in… But What Does it Mean?

It’s admission decision season! Once upon a time, applicants were either accepted or denied to a college. Then came the waitlist. Now, students can hear one of many different “answers” from colleges, and it can be confusing. It can also make the final decision process more difficult. In this blog we will try to shed some light on these different college responses and point out the potential pros and cons of each one.


You’re accepted!

For the vast majority of students, college decision time is a happy time during which they will get a straight acceptance letter from at least one school they are excited to attend. Students who have worked with Campus Bound have an even better chance of being happy (we consistently have well over a 9+ out of 10 satisfaction rating from clients). A straight acceptance isn’t always simple, as there will be financial aid packages to consider, but when your admission decision is an “acceptance,” there is good reason to celebrate.


You’re accepted… but… wait a year (or a semester)

Occasionally, an applicant will get a decision back from a college that says something like, “You are accepted, but not until spring semester.” There are many reasons colleges do this, but the main one is because they aren’t sure what their yield will be (the number of students who will accept their acceptances), nor how many students they will retain after the first semester. Oftentimes, spots open up for second semester (some students may graduate early too), and it benefits the college to have students committed to fill these spots.

Pros: If it’s a top choice college for you, it’s a way in! If you really, really want to attend that school, you just have to wait a bit. And, there are cool things you can do while you’re waiting. You can work and earn money for college, which is always helpful, but you can also travel, take classes elsewhere, or complete an internship of some kind. Many “gap year” programs have half-year options. Additionally, some colleges will offer a built-in program, such as “attend our program in London for a semester and then come back to campus,” which could be a really great experience!

Cons: You will be coming in mid-way through the year, when most friendships have been made and other students are settled and comfortable with the school. If you are particularly shy, or have trouble making friends, this might not be the best option for you.


You’re accepted… but not to the program you want

Occasionally, if a student is applying to a particularly selective academic program, such as nursing or engineering, for example, a college may send an acceptance letter that says something like, “we are sorry we can’t offer you admission to the engineering program, but we can offer you a spot in the College of Liberal Arts.” This is a tough one! There are important questions you need to ask yourself and the college: 1. How important is that major to me? (perhaps you picked it on a whim and liberal arts is fine, or maybe it’s really what you want to study). 2. What are the options for transferring into the program you want? Can you prove yourself and transfer in as a sophomore? (some colleges allow this and some do not) The important thing is to get all the information before you make a decision.

Pros: If you weren’t particularly sold on that specific academic program, or if you’ve even changed your mind since, you have an acceptance to the college you like. And, some colleges do offer opportunities to transfer into that specific program later.

Cons: It really doesn’t make sense to spend four years studying something you don’t want to study. It’s a waste of time and money. It’s important to remember that academics is the real reason you’re attending college in the first place.


You’re accepted, but…. to this special program

More and more colleges are offering a transition program for students who don’t quite meet the qualifications to be accepted but still show potential. They may invite students to attend a “bridge” program or “general studies” program within the college for a designated length of time. Then, if a student maintains a certain grade average and/or takes a certain number of courses, they can matriculate into the larger college. These programs are all very different, so it’s important to ask many questions and visit them if possible if accepted.

Pros: Again, it’s a way into a particular college if you absolutely love that school. Oftentimes these programs offer academic support and can serve as a sort of “stepping stone” to college. So students who may not be ready yet can ease into it.

Cons: You may not be located on campus with other traditional students. If that’s the case, you may feel left out of the typical college experience. You will also likely have certain requirements to matriculate into the university.


You’re waitlisted

It can be difficult for colleges to know how many of the students they accept will actually choose to enroll at their school. In order to fill in any potential gaps, they oftentimes put some students on a “waitlist.” That way, if they have spaces left to fill in their freshman class, they can take students off the waitlist. However, it varies greatly from school to school and even year to year as to how many students they take off the waitlist.

Pros: So you’re saying there’s a chance…. maybe. It doesn’t hurt to stay on a waitlist as long as it’s a school you actually like and might want to attend. And there are things you can do that might help your chances of eventually being admitted. But, it’s important not to get your hopes up.

Cons: The odds of being taken off the waitlist and being admitted are fairly slim. So it’s important to consider it a denial and stay positive about the schools you’ve actually been admitted to.


You’re denied

Their loss! If you are rejected from a college the only thing to do is to move on and be excited about the schools you were accepted to. If it was absolutely a school you love above any other, you can take courses elsewhere for a while and try to transfer. Sometimes, proving yourself in college-level courses can help your chance of being accepted via transfer. But, again, the most helpful thing to do is not take it too hard and instead focus on the positive.


Now that these decisions are coming in, it can pose a new problem for students and families as they weigh financial aid packages, waitlists, contingent acceptances, etc. If you need help with this, contact your Campus Bound counselor.


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