Between mid and late December, high school seniors that applied Early Decision or Early Action to a college or colleges will receive admission decisions. The decision notifications are typically delivered via a university’s online portal, email, or even occasionally by snail mail. For some, the news will bring shouts of elation, for others, disappointment, and for still others, questions.
There are three possible outcomes for an early application: acceptance, rejection, or deferral.
If you applied Early Decision and are accepted, your college application experience is largely complete, other than submitting a deposit. Because Early Decision is binding, unless there are financial circumstances, you should withdraw any pending applications to other schools. This opens up a possible admissions slot for someone else, maybe even a classmate.
If you applied Early Action, an acceptance means you are admitted to the school, and since the admissions decision is non-binding, you are free to consider whether you are excited to attend the university that accepted you, or whether you want to expand your options by applying to additional schools before the regular decision deadlines. In either case, you typically have until May 1 to accept admission and submit a deposit.
If you receive a rejection, this may be the first time in your life this has happened to you—and it hurts. You are not alone. Because nearly all students apply to multiple schools and are rarely admitted to all, rejection is an unfortunate part of the admissions process for most. Each year, colleges receive tens of thousands of applications, and admission officers frequently comment that there are many more qualified applicants than they could possibly admit due to class size constraints.
Note that if you are rejected by a college via either Early Action or Early Decision, you may not reapply to the same school during Regular Decision.
It is perfectly natural to need a few days to come to terms with the rejection, but be confident that once you apply to a few more suitable fit schools before the Regular Decision deadlines, you too will have an acceptance in hand by early April.
If you are deferred, you have not been rejected. The university’s admission team considers you a strong candidate, but would like to evaluate your application alongside others in their regular decision pool. While the number of applicants in a Regular Decision pool is greater than in an early round, a Regular Decision pool is typically not quite as strong as an early applicant pool.
Some universities that defer students ask you to confirm that you are still interested in being considered in their regular decision pool. You may need to do so by a specific deadline via the school’s online portal or an online form.
Some schools may also specify a process for submitting any updates you’d like to include to bolster your application, such as a transcript of final fall semester grades, or an update on your accomplishments or extracurricular activities. When in doubt, contact the university’s admission representative for your high school directly.
In closing, consider these comments from recent high school graduates/current college students:
“The news will come when it comes. Try to set a limit for yourself, and only check the online portal once a day, so you are not checking it obsessively.”
“Relax—thinking about it won’t change anything. It’s important to know that your admission decision is not an indicator of your worth. Self-worth comes from you.”
“You and your friends may hear from schools, even the same school, at different times. Just because you have not heard yet does not mean that you have been rejected.”
“You’ve done what you can. Hope for the best, but prepare for any outcome.”
“If you got in, don’t gloat. Be sensitive to others.”
“Parents, don’t be more upset than your kid is. He or she should not be consoling you because they did not get in. Give them space.”