Monday, December 17, 2012

Denied! - Now What?

So you found coal in your stocking from your #1 college.

The Grinch stole your Christmas joy.

Now what?

First, take some time to lick your wounds. 

Engorge on Russel Stover's chocolate.  Drown your sorrows in some eggnog.  Suck your candy canes down into pointed darts and hurl them vindictively at your deny letter.


Necessary catharsis.

Remember while you are wolfing down gingerbread cookies that very few students get into ALL the schools they apply to.

In my six years, I can't even count 1 of my students who applied to selective and highly selective institutions that didn't get either denied or wait listed.

None of their application records went unblemished.

And yet all of them ended up at great schools!

Second, replenish your Mojo.

It's never easy to do this once you've expended your Mojo on writing essays and completing applications. 

But nevertheless, life is about finding ways to replenish the Mojo bottle and carry on.

At some point, you got to return to your Common Application portal and click on the supplements and start cranking out drafts, researching the colleges to really nuance your answer to the "why?" questions (click here to read my blog post on compelling supplemental essay writing).

Third, calibrate your Plan B college list.

The impulse in the mad scramble to meet Jan. 1 deadlines is to blast a staccato of applications to colleges that are as selective or more selective as the school you applied to in early admission.

I call this the horizontal approach.

Or the "X axis of selectivity" strategy.

The false logic here is to deduce that the more schools I apply to, the more likely I will get into one of these schools.

1+1+1+1+1 = at least 1+> admit. 

The truth is that the more schools you apply to in the same band of selectivity you were denied/deferred in, the less likely you will get into one of them.

The math in highly selective admissions just doesn't work that way.

Many times then 1+1+1+1+1 = 0.

My first college coaching video, in fact, explains this.

My advice then:  take a vertical approach.

Apply on a "Y-axis of selectivity".

If you weren't admitted to schools that admit 6-20%, then look to apply to schools that admit 25-50%.

If you weren't admitted to schools that admit 25-50%, then look to apply to schools that admit 51-60%.

We talk to our students about the 50/50 rule.

At least 50% of the schools you apply to need to be in a selectivity range where your credentials (GPA, test score) are equal to or above the school's profile.

We call these "likely" or "target" schools.

And 50% are below the school's profile.  

We call these "reach" schools.

Fourth, avoid recycling essays.

Everything inside of you is going to want and recycle essays.

In some cases this may work effectively.

But not when it comes to the "why"? supplements.

It's critical that you start over.

Do your research.

Focus on why you think that particular college fits you.

I had a colleague tell me after reading a student's "why"? essay that they could tell it was recycled.

It smacked of the generic.

This savvy reader could tell the student had simply inserted the name of their college.

"It's like a pick up line," the admission officer confided in me.  "You can tell this student had used it to court many colleges."

Fifth, control what you can control.

There is a lot in the college admission process, especially in highly selective admissions, that is beyond your control.

You can't control, for example, when a school like Vandy gets a 20% increase in ED I applications.

Or your gender.

Or the color of your skin.

But you can control, for example, if you are going to recycle essays or write new ones.

You can control how you perform academically in the classroom during the winter.

You can control whether or not you demonstrate interest to the colleges you are applying to in regular admission - emailing the rep occasionally with a winter highlight or an intelligent question.


Getting over a deny is much easier said than done.

But it's just part of the college process in finding that right fit.

And know that you are not alone.

Most seniors out there are going through the same motions of returning to their applications over the holidays, writing supplemental essays, and clicking the submit button.

And know that all will work out.

In fact, I just had an alumni who popped in to say hello.

She was denied from her first two schools in ED 1 and ED II.

And guess what?

She loves where she is.

Her Plan C is now her happy Plan A.