Help for Girlfriend Reapplying to College After Hiatus

Question: My girlfriend was accepted to many different colleges, coming out of high school, going into the fall 2011 semester. She finally decided on one college and was all setup up to go, but she couldn’t afford the price of the dorms so she ended up not going. She tried attending the local junior college for a semester but didn’t like it and ended up dropping her classes. She has been working the whole time since high school and now has money saved up. How does she go about reapplying to a university?

If your girlfriend did not complete even one semester at the JC, she would reapply to college as a freshman, but she still must list the junior college on her application. She should explain to admission officials why she attended only briefly and then left, along with what she has been doing since. (If there’s no obvious place to include this, she can send a separate letter by email to each college she applies to or she can look for an “Additional Information” section on her applications.)

If your girlfriend earned SOME credit from the community college, she may have to apply as a transfer, but this will depend on both the amount of credit she earned and on the policies at the colleges on her list. (She might have to contact each one individually to find out if she should apply as a freshman or as a transfer, if she’s not sure. And these policies can vary from college to college.)

Whether she is applying as a freshman or a transfer, her applications will ask her if she ever previously applied to this college. If the answer is yes, then she must say so. She can also contact those colleges to which she previously applied to ask if she needs to re-send her transcript and test scores or if they still have that information on file.

SAT and ACT scores are good for five years. So if your girlfriend took these tests within that time frame, she does not need to take them again.

Applying to college after a break of a couple years really isn’t much different than applying straight from high school except that colleges will want to know what the applicant has been doing with the time since high school graduation. So, as I noted above, your girlfriend must explain what she has been up to. She should be sure include her short stint in the junior college and why she left as well as her job history and any other worthwhile pursuits she’s been involved with (sports, hobbies, family activities, volunteering, etc.). She will probably have to submit new teacher references, too, which might be a little tricky since she’s not in school right now. The colleges that she applied to two years ago probably did not save her old references, but she can ask if they did and, if so, if these will suffice.

It is likely that any college that accepted her previously will admit her again once she’s shown that she has spent this time earning money to afford college. She may also want to expand her college list so that it includes schools that could provide enough financial aid to make dorm life affordable, if she still would prefer to live in a dorm.

As your girlfriend goes through this process, she might find it a bit daunting. It’s daunting for almost everyone but perhaps more so for those who are not in school. So she shouldn’t hesitate to phone or email admission offices directly if she’s confused and needs assistance.

Good luck to her!

(posted 6/10/2013)

Posted in College Admissions    

My daughter wasn’t accepted anywhere!

Question: My daughter has applied to six different colleges and she has received five rejection letters. She scored very low on her SAT scores, and this maybe the reason why she has not gotten a letter of admission. My daughter is a bright student with good grades. What should we do next? It’s so disappointing, and costly.

I’m sorry to hear about your daughter’s disappointing college results. This can be a very trying time for teenagers and their parents, but please take comfort in the fact that your daughter will still have options. The pain and frustration she’s feeling right now won’t last forever.

Many colleges will welcome a bright student with good grades, despite low test scores, so it sounds like your daughter didn’t get good counseling (sadly, very common these days) or perhaps she ignored the advice she did get. Some guidance counselors underestimate the role that SAT scores can play. At the more selective colleges, applicants often have similar course choices and grades, so test results may end up serving as a “tiebreaker.” Moreover, depending on what you mean by “very low,” it could be that your daughter’s test scores made admission committees worry that she might not be able to handle a demanding college workload.

In any case, if your daughter was admitted to one of her six colleges, then it does sound as if she has an option. This may not be her first-choice school, but since she did apply, it seems as if she should be willing to enroll. There are many posts on the College Confidential discussion forum from students who were forced to attend their “Safety School” but then who went on to thrive there.

It’s not clear to me, however, if she was actually admitted anywhere … or expects that she might yet be. You did say that she received five rejection letters out of six applications but has not gotten a letter of admission. So perhaps she is still waiting and could get good news soon.

If not, here are some next steps to consider:

1. You and your daughter should check out this very valuable list:

It’s the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s 2013 “Space Availability Survey. The colleges on this roster are still accepting applications, even if their deadlines have long passed. Be sure to read the headings at the top of the page carefully so that you don’t confuse colleges that have room for freshmen with those that are only accepting transfers. If you need financial aid, be sure to check that column too in order to confirm that aid, as well as space, is also offered.

As you go through the list, you might want to cross-reference it with this one: It’s FairTest’s list of Test-optional colleges. For instance, you’ll find Juniata College in Pennsylvanaia—one of the Colleges that Change Lives—on BOTH lists. I urge you to check out this school right away.

2. Many of the less-selective colleges or “open admission colleges” (including two-year community colleges) have very late deadlines or no deadlines at all, so your daughter still has time to apply. Even if she’s not happy about taking this route, if she enrolls and does well she can transfer to a more selective school after a year or two … maybe even to one of those places that said “no” already. (Although colleges often ask for SAT scores from prospective transfers, they pay far more attention to the college grades than to the high school SAT’s.)

3. Your daughter might want to consider a gap year. Her time off can include working on improving her test scores and/or reapplying to different colleges, perhaps emphasizing those on the FairTest list. (If you want information on private counseling to help guide you through a new college search, let me know.) Even students who have been admitted to their top-choice colleges often find that a gap year can be a good way to take a break from academics, to explore varied interests, to travel or to earn money before returning to the classroom.

Again, while I’m sure that this is a difficult time for your family, you may find that it ends up in a meant-to-be kind of way. Your daughter could land at a college she loves, even if it wasn’t one where she initially applied.

(posted 5/12/2013)

Posted in College Admissions    

Buyer’s Remorse: Daughter Said Yes to the Wrong College

Question: It is 4 weeks before college starts and my daughter feels she has made a mistake in her college choice. She was very torn with her decision and we feel she is right. She made a choice based on what she felt we wanted and what would be better financially for us as a family, NOT the best choice for herself and her future career. The school she is set to go to does not even have the degree she has wanted to go into for forever! The school she should be going to did accept her and offer her a very nice scholarship based on her academic prowess. What do we do now! We have already said no to the university she really wants and yes to the one shes set to go to. HELP.

Your daughter should sprint to the nearest phone (probably as close by as her pocket or purse) and call the college she wants to attend.

She should first ask to speak to the staff member who oversees applicants from her high school. But, if that person isn’t available, she can talk to any other admission counselor who’s handy.

She needs to spell out her situation and ask if there might still be space for her in the freshman class, along with housing (if required) and financial aid.

Right about now, many colleges experience “summer melt”—that’s when enrolled students change their minds. So it’s very possible that a college that already said yes to your daughter might still have a spot for her. The housing and, especially, the money might be more problematic, but it can’t hurt for your daughter to try. She can explain that she chose another school that she thought would be mean a better price-tag for her parents but realizes now that she made a mistake … especially from the future-plans perspective.

If she is willing to enroll in the spring term, if need be, she should say this as well. The odds of a spot being available in January are even greater than in the fall, and she can take a “gap” semester–perhaps even earning some money to cover college costs–while she waits. It might not be ideal, but it beats heading off to a place she doesn’t want to be.

But if there’s no room (or money) for her at all in the coming year, she can either bite the bullet and go to the school she already selected, planning a transfer for fall 2013, or she can take a full gap year, reapply, and start as a freshman in September 2013.

But her first step is to make that phone call right away, or at least first-thing on Monday morning.

(posted 7/28/2012)

Posted in College Admissions    

Higher SAT’s now. Can I reapply to a school that said no?

Question: I was denied for the fall term due to my low SAT scores. Am I allowed to reapply if I get better scores? The college has rolling admissions.

Officially you cannot reapply to a college that has already rejected you outright, even if it’s a rolling-admissions school. But … if your new test scores are significantly higher (e.g., if they’ve gone from the bottom of that college’s typical admitted-student range to the top), and if your GPA is at or above the median, then it can’t hurt to take another shot, as long as you steel yourself for a second rejection.

If your plan has the support of your guidance counselor, your best bet might be to have him or her contact the college on your behalf and cite the new and improved SAT scores. Your counselor should also explain how much you want to go there and why it’s a great fit for you. If you’re willing to consider admission to a term other than fall (e.g., summer 2012, spring 2013), make sure your counselor mentions this as well.

If you don’t think it’s realistic to ask your counselor to go to bat for you, you can contact the college yourself. But, again, recognize that this is a long-shot. Admission folks don’t have the time or energy to revisit applications they’ve already turned down, so you should expect a grim and perhaps even cranky response … but, again, it can’t hurt to give it one more try.

However, if your SAT’s, albeit improved, are still below the college’s median range or if your grades are no great shakes either, then it’s time to move on and to get excited about whatever colleges will welcome you.

(posted 2/13/2012)

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Mid-Year Bucknell Transfer for Miami Frosh?

My daughter is currently a freshman at University of Miami. Her first choice was Bucknell University, where she was waitlisted. However, she never got off the wait list. She would like to reapply to Bucknell for Spring semester, but unfortunately she missed the November 1, 2011 deadline. Do you think the admissions office would still consider her for spring semester if she was to submit her application late, or would they frown upon it? Would it affect her chances of getting accepted for fall, 2012? Please let me know how to handle this. My daughter has a 4.0 gpa at University of Miami. She is extremely miserable. She loved Bucknell, and wants to be there. Can you please give me that proper advice.

Bucknell–like many highly selective colleges–discourages freshman transfers and usually only accepts them when there are extenuating circumstances. In fact, right on Bucknell’s Web site, you will see:

Except for unique cases, freshmen should not apply for mid-year admission; instead, these students should plan to complete their freshman years and seek sophomore admission to Bucknell.

So, given these instructions AND the fact that your daughter missed the transfer deadline, I think she should stick it out in Miami until the school year ends. If she continues to do well there academically, she should have a good shot at Bucknell for next fall. She would also be wise to use the months ahead to make a mark outside the classroom … i.e., she could pursue an extracurricular interest, a hobby, an internship, a research project, etc. that will add an extra dimension to her transfer application. She should also try to make the best of her current situation, even if it’s less than ideal. It’s still very early in the school year, and often it takes freshmen five or six months to adjust, not just two or three.

BUT … on the other hand, IF your daughter will NOT require financial aid to attend Bucknell, it won’t hurt her to go for broke. She should pick up the phone TODAY and call the transfer coordinator in the Bucknell admission office. She should explain succinctly that she realizes Bucknell does not normally take first-year transfers, which is why she has not officially applied. However, she can point out that she was waitlisted last spring, that Bucknell continues to be her first-choice college, and that she would be delighted to show up on short notice for the second semester and without requiring financial aid, should there be unanticipated attrition.

Her odds of getting the answer she wants are slim, but it won’t penalize her to ask, and at least she’ll put herself on the transfer counselor’s radar screen. But, if she does need financial aid, I recommend that she just sits tight for now. She can aim for the fall transfer date while she enjoys the Florida sunshine all winter.

(posted 11/3/2011)

Posted in College Admissions    

Applying Via Early Action, Early Decision and Rolling Admission — All at Once

Question: If I wanted to apply to a college that has Rolling Admissions, would I be restricted in applying Early Decision or Early Action to other colleges? Basically, could you apply to a college with Rolling Admissions and at the same time apply to a college Early Action and then, if both of those options are unsuccessful, apply Regular Decision?

Remember back in kindergarten when your teacher told you how important it was to follow directions? Well, you may need those skills more than ever as you trudge through the confusing college-admission maze. :(

If you are applying Early Action or Early Decision, you must locate a description of that option on the college’s Web site to see if any “restrictions” apply. Note that the policies at one college may not be the same as those at similar schools, so read those Web instructions well!

Typically, an Early Action application doesn’t prevent you from applying to another college via a non-binding Rolling Admission policy. Usually (but not always), you can also apply Early Action to other colleges concurrently. In most cases, you can apply to one college Early Decision, too (as long as you understand that you must accept the Early Decision spot, if it is offered).

BUT some Early Action colleges put restrictions on where else you can apply during the EA round. For example, colleges with “Single-Choice Early Action” prohibit you from applying elsewhere via Early Action or Early Decision (but exceptions can be made for public-university EA programs, so check Web sites carefully). However, you can apply elsewhere via non-binding rolling admission plans.

You may also encounter limitations such as those imposed by Boston College and Georgetown University that do allow Early Action applicants to apply elsewhere via Early Action but not via binding Early Decision.

So, to answer your question succinctly, you CAN apply via rolling admission and Early Action (or Early Decision) simultaneously. But if you are accepted at an Early Decision college, you are committed to attend (unless the financial aid offer you receive makes it impossible to do so. In that case, you can withdraw without penalty.)

If you are denied outright in the Early round (or via Rolling Admission) you cannot reapply. However, if you are deferred in the Early round, you will automatically be reconsidered with the Regular Decision applicant pool.

For more information on this confounding topic, check out “‘Early action’ isn’t always as simple as it looks” by independent counselor Nancy Griesemer.

Good luck to you as you navigate this maze.

(posted 10/3/2011)

Posted in College Admissions    

Big Loans, Safety School, or Gap Year?

Question: I didn’t get into the college of my dreams — shocking, I know. My dilemma is that I’m stuck between a rock, a hard place, and then something else insanely difficult, as well.

I currently have three options for next year:

1. I was accepted to Virginia Tech. Not my first choice or a place I think I would really fit in, but a good school nonetheless.

2. I was accepted to UCLA. One of my co-first choices, and pretty much the place I’ve been dreaming of since I was 12. But I’m an out-of-state student and they didn’t offer nearly enough money to cover everything I need.

3. A gap year. My biggest priority in life (even before getting a good job, a relationship, or making a million dollars) is to travel the world. I desperately want to volunteer abroad.

So what do I do? Go to the school I don’t really feel a connection to but I can afford, bite the bullet and take out more than $20k in loans for each year at the school of dreams, or somehow find an affordable gap year program and apply again next year?

This is all not to mention that I’m wait-listed at my other co-first choice school, William & Mary, so who knows how that will pan out.

I’m afraid of doing a gap and applying in 2012 only to fail again, but I’m also afraid of going the conventional route and forgetting all the dreams I had of doing my small part to make the world a better place.

What do I do?

As an old lady of nearly 60, I’m pretty skeptical when it comes to the “Dream School” concept. I’ve seen so many students who have NOT attended their true-love college (either because of rejection or cost) yet who have gone on to have wonderful undergraduate experiences and happy, college-loan-free lives. Sure, it seems unfair that some high school seniors can follow their heart while others must follow their wallet. But who said life would be fair, right?

So, if you’re talking $20K per year in loans to go to UCLA, I think you’re wise to take it off the table.

Here’s what I suggest instead:

1) Lobby hard to get into William and Mary. Follow the advice you’ll find in this other recent “Ask the Dean” column:

Pay particular attention to the part about stating clearly that you DEFINITELY WILL ENROLL if admitted from the waitlist.

2) Give some serious thought to the gap year, even if it means sending a deposit to Virginia Tech by the May 1 deadline, which you might ultimately lose.

Do keep in mind, however, that most of the time (although not always), a college that said “No” to you when you were a senior in high school will not accept you following a gap year. (Getting in as a transfer is more likely, but this also depends on the college. The Ivy League colleges, for instance, take very few transfers.)

So don’t pursue the gap year if your primary purpose would be to reapply to your top-choice college with the hope of getting news the next time around. BUT … if a central aim of your gap year would be to do some good in the world while you retool your college list, that’s a different story. Make sure that your new list includes colleges that excite you more than Virginia Tech does but also those which, unlike UCLA, will be affordable. (If you’re strong enough to be admitted to UCLA from out of state, then there are certainly lots of colleges that would welcome you with merit aid. Go back to the drawing board and consider what you like best about your “dream” school(s) and then find places that share some of those traits but where your profile puts you closer to the top of the applicant pool.) You can also find gap-year programs such as CityYear and Americorps that will actually pay you to participate, rather than those that cost many thousands to do “volunteer” work abroad.

My advice to all potential gap-year students is to be sure to have a specific plan in place before you commit for sure to the time off from school. But if you’re itching to make the world a better place, but you’re not so thrilled with your current college options, then it might make sense to do that gap year and to line up some new colleges that you can really get excited about for the fall of 2012.

(posted 4/10/2011)

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Investment Banking Studies After Flunking Out of Pre-Med Track?

Question: I flunked out of a college, while being on the pre-med track. I want to get back to college and go in the investment banking route. Is this a possibility?

You can certainly do this, but you will have to report your past record when reapplying to college. As much as you might like to start over with a “clean slate,” if you do not include your previous courses and grades in your applications, you run the risk of being expelled, should you first get admitted to a new college but your omission later surfaces.

Because of your weak start as a pre-med student, you are likely to find that you will not be accepted to many colleges that might have accepted you right out of high school, based on a good high school record. Yet there are definitely many places that will welcome you … lousy record and all. :)

You may want to use your essay, a supplemental letter, or the “Additional Information” section that you’ll find on most applications to explain why you think you did so poorly the first time around (and why you’re convinced you’ll do better in the future).

If you are indeed successful in your new classes, you will position yourself to transfer to a more selective school, should you decide that you wish to do so.

There are many people in your shoes … those who screwed up initially and came back stronger … so don’t feel that you have been permanently thwarted by past failures, but do try to determine what caused them in the first place so that you don’t repeat your old mistakes.

(posted 2/15/2011)

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Should Non-Traditional Student Dislose Shaky Start When Reapplying?

Question:I am a non-traditional college student trying to continue on for my four-year degree. Between 1994 and ’96 I attended a four-year school and basically flunked out with a 1.9 GPA. Since then I have a cumulative 3.48 GPA with two associates degrees. I have applied to different schools with the aforementioned four-year school listed on there and I have been denied three times, mainly because they take the credits from the four-year schools but not the two-year schools. So, when applying to my next school, should I leave that four-year off the application? I feel bad doing it, but I also feel I am being judged on grades that are no longer indicative of what kind of student I am.

Unfortunately, you cannot omit any part of your academic history from your applications. I know that it seems unfair to be penalized for youthful follies because you’ve clearly gotten back on track since then. However, should you apply to another school now without revealing your record, you run the risk of having your acceptance overturned, if your past were to come to light. In fact, I’ve even heard the sad story of one student in your shoes who concealed a false start, applied to a new college, got accepted and did well there, but was expelled just weeks before graduation when his dishonesty was discovered.

If you continued to be denied admission in spite of your recent successes, my guess is that you are applying to the wrong colleges or are making some other error in your applications. There are many four-year schools that would happily accept a mature student with a 3.48 GPA and two associates degrees, even one with long-ago blemishes on his transcript.

Have you already worked with a transfer counselor from your two-year schools to help you with placement? Most community colleges have “articulation agreements” with several four-year colleges. These agreements guarantee … or at least facilitate … transferring into the participating four-year colleges as long as you’ve met certain standards at the two-year school. Have you looked into such agreements at your two-year college(s)?

One other strategy you might try is that, before you apply elsewhere again, make an appointment to meet in person with the college’s admission officer who oversees transfer applicants. Explain your situation to him or her and then ask how to proceed. You may get some helpful advice this way and you’ll also potentially make a “friend” in the admission office.

A few four-year colleges even offer “academic forgiveness” programs that allow students who were once enrolled and did poorly to return to redeem themselves. In these cases, the original grades remain as part of the student’s record, but the college also computes a second “clean-slate” grade-point average that allows the student a second chance at a good GPA. Perhaps you should check with the transfer official at your old four-year school to see if they have such an option.

In any case, your early college record is certainly not indicative of your strength as a student, so I hope you persist and find a four-year college that will welcome you … as many should.

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Can I Reapply After Early Decision or Early Action Rejection?

Question: If I apply to a college through Early Decision or Early Action, but I am not accepted, can I apply again through Regular Decision?

If you are denied outright (“rejected”) in the Early Decision or Early Action round, then you CANNOT reapply. In most cases, if a college thinks that you are at least a borderline candidate but they aren’t willing to commit to you during the Early Action or Early Decision process, they will “defer” you and then reevaluate your credentials with the Regular Decision pool. (I said, “In most cases” because there are a handful of colleges, such as New York University, that do not ever defer Early applicants … they only admit or deny them.)

If you are deferred via ED or EA, you do not have to reapply. The college will automatically consider you along with the Regular Decision candidates. However, you would be wise to stay in touch with admission officials after a deferral by sending an update letter that highlights your accomplishments since you initially submitted your application.

Although a denial in the Early round is disappointing, the silver lining to this cloud is that it can help you to reset your sights while there is still time and to position yourself to get good news in the spring from a college you’re truly excited about.

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