Flourishing mind concept

What If I’m Denied by My Dream School?

Denied by your dream school? Well, your first reaction might likely be frustration and anger.

“How could they do this to me? I did everything right and still they turned me down!”

Afterward, you may fall into a feeling of despair, lamenting over what you may NOT have done right. You question yourself, you question your ability, you wonder if it was really all worth the time and sweat equity you put into building that masterful application.

And in fact it was.

Why? Because while of course results matter, going through the process of choosing schools, preparing application materials, and putting your best foot forward is tremendous experience that will serve you well throughout life. You’ve mastered the art of managing your time and fulfilled an unprecedented level of responsibility, read: accountability, growth, maturation. The journey is equally important as the destination, though it may not seem so at present.

It’s okay to be upset and discouraged, it shows you care.

So once you’ve gotten that initial shock to your system OUT of your system, what next?

Focus on the positives!

So long as you didn’t just apply to one school – your dream school – and presuming you’ve chosen your schools wisely, you’ll have plenty of other worthwhile options in waiting. Ideally, you should have applied to 10 or 12 schools to begin with. Don’t flood the “market” so to speak, but do enough to better ensure not only a positive outcome but sufficient backup as a buffer.

Regroup and return to your school list. Did you rank your selections in order of preference—2nd, 3rd, 4th, and so on? Did you note all of the positive qualities in the details column while doing your research? If your answer is yes, then great, you were conscientious and in much better position to not only handle the disappointment of a denial, but can easily sort through the rest to make your next best decision. Hey, you chose them and they chose you!

However, presuming you didn’t quite go that extra mile, do it now. Identify your top 2 or 3 choices. Speak with current students, pick the brains of other prospective students and professors; your guidance counselor and education consultant, if you had one.

From there, schedule campus visits. Even if you’ve visited a school before, this time you’ve got a greater sense of purpose; this is for all the marbles, so you’re going to be very diligent in your in-person assessment. If campus visits are not possible, there are many practical alternatives that will give you great insights as you look closer at the schools beyond your initial research—virtual tours, social media groups, etc. Make use of as many as possible.

Still chomping at the bit for that dream school?

You may be asking, “Isn’t there something I can do to have them reconsider me?” Sure, you can send an appeal letter. Do they work? Not typically, no. But, never say never. I had a student win an appeal and gain admission to UCLA not long ago. So anything’s possible. When I counsel students, I tell them right from the beginning, don’t leave anything on the table! So unless a school expressly forbids appeals and discourages them as a waste of time, go ahead and draft one and send it along. At this point, there’s nothing to lose, so why not?

But again, these rarely ever work, so that’s why no matter what, always make sure to get back into those existing acceptance letters and start digging further into which of your alternatives would be most suitable. If the best happens and you win an appeal, wonderful; and if not, you’re well prepared for taking those next forward steps.