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“I got rejected from my reach schools and my targets. I didn’t even get into my safeties. Help!”

Millions of high school students breathed a sigh of relief upon receiving their acceptance notifications in the past few weeks. But others have been left empty-handed, feeling disappointed, and fearing they have no options.

The good news is that it may not be too late. Quite a few colleges have late admissions deadlines or in some cases “rolling admissions,” in which applications continue to be accepted until all the spots are filled. An internet search of “colleges with late application deadlines” or “colleges with rolling admissions” will yield fairly long lists. You can also check out NACAC’s College Openings Update or search on the College Board website and within the Common App, Coalition application, or Universal College Application.

I don’t recommend trusting these lists blindly, though; go to each college’s website or contact their admissions office directly to confirm that they are in fact still taking applications. It’s worth noting that many British and Canadian schools also allow international students to apply relatively late.

What about aid? Surprisingly, financial aid is often available at many of these late-deadline schools. However, aid is often determined on a first come, first served basis, so it pays to apply as soon as possible.

What else can students do in this situation? There are quite a few options:

  • Enroll at one of the late-deadline schools. Take your schoolwork seriously. If you are happy there, stay; if not, apply to transfer to one of your preferred schools for your sophomore or junior year.
  • Start with courses at a local community college and transfer after two years. You’ll save a lot of money! Some states will guarantee admission to a state university after two years if certain conditions (e.g., minimum GPA) are met.
  • Get your degree online and work at the same time. You’ll be better off financially, and you can always have an on-campus experience by seeking a second degree later on.
  • If you think that your test scores were a major factor in not getting admitted, do more test prep and retake the tests. Better yet, apply to test-optional schools.
  • Do a postgraduate year. Many private high schools and boarding schools offer this option.
  • Take a gap year. Brush up your application by pursuing your passion in a way that will lay the groundwork for your career and impress next year’s college admissions committees.

Finally, honor your feelings. Your disappointment is real. It hurts, but it will subside in time. Put your feelings in writing, or seek support from others. Know that schools are trying to create a balanced incoming freshman class and that they aren’t rejecting you personally. When you have recovered from this disappointment, you may find hidden strengths and new opportunities you could never have foreseen.

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