Given the tremendous pressure that surrounds the college admissions process, it can sometimes feel like failing to make early decision is a terrible—and final—outcome. But this is not necessarily true—in fact, it’s rarely true! Rather than allowing your hopes for a college acceptance letter to fade, consider doing this next:
Contact the school in question
First, avoid immediately counting yourself out. If you believe that your application may have been narrowly rejected (i.e. your grades and test scores were competitive, your letters of recommendation were strong, and your essay was polished), contact an admissions counselor. Counselors are often extremely busy during the college admissions period, so ensure you proceed with courtesy and express gratitude for any time they sacrifice to speak with you. When you call or e-mail the school, try to learn what you could have done to increase your chances of acceptance. Certain colleges and universities may begin to reconsider your early decision portfolio based on your correspondence and your desire to attend their institutions. (Note, however, that this is not always the case, and that too-frequent communication can irritate a school.)
Whether your early acceptance decision is reversed or not, you will have begun to establish personal relationships with staff members. This can be especially powerful if you choose to reapply in the regular decision admissions cycle.
Recognize the benefits of regular decision
There are several benefits to not making early decision, and as that is the position you now find yourself in, you may wish to take full advantage of them. For example, early decision means that you receive just one offer of financial aid, which may or may not be sufficient depending on your situation. Failing to make early decision means that you can compare multiple financial aid packages if you also apply regular decision. If you were torn between several colleges and universities, you can now use this extra time to further consider which school you would truly like to attend—with the added knowledge of real costs.
Another advantage to not making early decision is the ability to apply under regular decision with a stronger GPA. You may have one or more months between the early and regular decision deadlines to strengthen your grades, especially if your transcript includes your first-semester senior year marks. This point bump, achieved during a time when some students face senioritis and ease their way into graduation, can demonstrate to your potential colleges that you have a genuine enthusiasm for learning and the necessary drive and focus to succeed in higher education.
Ultimately, try to be persistent in all that you do. Failing to make early decision will not negatively define the next four years of your education. Take this lesson from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Don’t panic! Many others are in the same position as you, and chances are that everything will work out just fine. Determine what you must do to strengthen your application before the regular decision deadline, and then put this new plan into motion. Good luck!