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Accepted, Rejected or Deferred: What to Do Next After Early Action or Early Decision Results

It’s officially college acceptance (and rejection) season. You may have discovered you’re headed to the college of your dreams next fall. Or you could spend a few more months camped by your mailbox for a final decision. No matter what your situation entails, we’ve demystified five Early Action or Early Decision scenarios you may encounter – how to deal with the good, the bad, and the “maybe.”


The sitch: You’ve been accepted Early Action– to both of your top choice schools. How will you choose?

When both acceptance letters came in the mail, you freaked. Your hard work proved its worth and it’s time to choose your best fit, but it won’t be easy. Linda Hipple, a guidance counselor at Dearborn High School in Dearborn, Michigan suggests students focus on two priorities: what they plan on pursuing as a major or what school feels best. “It comes down to the program they’re interested in and what each school has to offer them,” she said. But if a student is undecided on a major, Hipple recommends choosing the university where she feels most “at home.” And if you can’t visit the campus, we’ve got you covered on how to virtually visit a college. Bridget, a senior at Stevenson High School in Livonia, Michigan, has yet to ultimately choose where she’s attending college, but is taking the ‘comfort’ route. “Where I end up going may not have the best program in the country for what I want to study,” she says. “But for me it’s about all those other things, like feeling comfortable on the campus and the students,” she said.

The sitch: You’ve been accepted Early Action or Early Decision to your top choice school, but your friend has been rejected.

Bridget was also recently accepted to one of her top choice schools, but her close friend was rejected from the same one. Although breaking the news was awkward, she encourages girls in similar situations to keep their cool. “I just have been trying to not ‘brag’ about it or talk about it a lot,” she said. “It doesn’t mean I’m not going to go because that would not benefit myself in the end,” she says. And she says it’s also a test of friendship – real friends will be happy for each other no matter what college they choose.


The sitch: You’ve been deferred from your top choice school. How long do you wait for the final decision and what should your next steps be?

The only thing worse than a flat-out rejection letter may be one stating you have to wait. With some universities waiting until late April to send out final decisions to deferred students, is sending another letter of recommendation or updating your grades or ACT or SAT score acceptable? “Each school is different,” said Hipple. “Some schools want a lot of info and some don’t.” She recommends contacting your college of interest’s representative at your high school and getting the facts before you update any information to admissions. “It depends on how badly they [the students] want to go to that school,” she said. But she suggests you keep other schools you’ve applied to in mind while you wait, considering late winter is also too late for students to continue applying to four-year colleges.


The sitch: You were rejected from your Early Decision school. How do you move forward? 

Rejection may come with surprising benefits. Devon, a senior at Central Michigan University, says she’s thankful she didn’t get accepted to her top choice. She applied to a specific college focused on international relations within a university and although initially upset, her decision to now pursue fiction writing speaks for itself. “If I would have been accepted my life would be really different right now,” she said. “I wouldn’t have made the choices that I’ve recently made in regards to how I want to spend the rest of my life.” So perhaps it’s necessary to remember the adage “everything happens for a reason” – and that sometimes your interests change. If you’re absolutely set on your top choice, Hipple often recommends students ace a year of community college (or any other college) and reapply when they feel they’ve met their top choice’s requirements. But remember, it’s not safe to completely rely on this method because you’re not guaranteed to get in the second time around. Like Devon learned, explore multiple options for college because your preferences for schools or interests may change.

The sitch: Your best friend was accepted to your top choice – and you weren’t. How can you feel less jealous?

As if Devon’s rejection wasn’t disappointing enough, one of her best friends was accepted to the specialized program she didn’t get into. But she warns against becoming a green-eyed monster – apparently, being happy for a friend is easier than it seems. “Chances are good that no matter where you go, you’ll have classes you like and meet great people,” she said. “Rejection is such a blip on the radar in the past – it’s nothing to dwell on.” Perceiving rejection as just “a blip on the radar?” Sounds like a first step for pre-collegiettes in preparing for college: four years that, just like high school, are bound to include more highs and lows.

Linda Hipple, Guidance Counselor, Dearborn High School
Devon, Senior, Central Michigan University
Bridget, Senior, Stevenson High School

Tricia is a senior (2012) at Central Michigan University, studying English Literature and French. She was the Campus Life editor at her school's feature publication, Grand Central Magazine, interned at BlackBook Magazine, and spent a semester in France, followed by some time in India. She's all about women's interests and issues. Follow Tricia on Twitter @TriciaTaormina.