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What To Do When You’re Not Accepted By Your ED School

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Early Decision and Early Action decisions have slowly been trickling out from schools over the past few days and, if you’re reading this, you probably did not receive the news you were hoping for.

We’ve been in the game a long time, and let us tell you: it is not getting any easier for high school seniors. Year after year acceptance rates shrink and more schools post percentages in the single digits. So, if you didn’t receive that coveted acceptance letter, know that you are not alone. Last year was one of the most difficult years on record, and we’re guessing that this year will be comparable.

So that’s the bad news (but possibly not the worst news you’ve gotten recently). The good news is that you’re still in the game. Regular Decision deadlines are a few weeks away and there are thousands of other colleges out there waiting for your application. So what should you do when you are not accepted by your Early Decision school? We’ll tell you.


It’s normal to feel sad, and in order to find the motivation to write supplemental essays for your Regular Decision schools, you need to go through the five stages of grief. Cross the bridge over denial as fast as you can. Scream into a pillow to let out your anger. Remember that no means no, and bargaining will only prolong the heartbreak if you’ve received a flat out rejection. When the depression sets in and you don’t feel like doing much, just remember that you can start some preliminary why essay research from the comfort of your bed, couch, or favorite chair. The more you can force your brain to see the good qualities in your backup schools, the sooner you’ll reach the phase of acceptance (first of your current situation, and later to some amazing school you might have discounted at first)! And speaking of your backups…

Make a List

If you don’t already have a clear idea of where you would like to apply by January 1st, start researching schools of interest immediately. (Remember, you can do this from the comfort of your home with a cup of cocoa or your favorite tea in hand.) Are there schools that offer similar majors or study abroad opportunities? Are there institutions in the same region with similar research programs? And don’t forget to think about spread. When you apply Regular Decision, you’re applying to a portfolio of schools rather than a single target. Take advantage of the breadth of options by crafting a balanced list with a range of reach, mid-range, and safety schools. Allow yourself to follow your interests through internet rabbit holes. The more you can get to know your backup schools, the more likely you are to find another option that is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Start Drafting Your Supplemental Essays

There is no time to waste! See if you can recycle any of the supplemental essays you’ve already written to fit the prompts for your RD schools; this is another low-energy task you can start to work on as you mourn. You’ll also want to identify and organize the prompts that will require brand new essays. You’re likely already feeling the time pressure, so you will need to work smart. While you may have dozens of new prompts on your hands, chances are you’ll only need to write a handful of core essays to address most of them. So look for overlap in the remaining prompts and start brainstorming topic ideas right away! The sooner you can send off these applications, the better, that way you can enjoy your winter break stress-free.

Get a Second Pair of Eyes

I’m sure you’re wondering why you didn’t make the cut for your dream school. Was it your lack of community service? That C you got in Calculus? Was your college essay not good enough? You can never know for sure, but you CAN make sure that your personal statement and supplemental essays are up to snuff the second time around! Ask a trusted English teacher or Expert College Essay Advisor to review your essay to see if there are any ways in which you can improve your draft. We can give you the reassurance and peace of mind you need to submit your essays with pride.

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