How to Survive College Acceptance Season


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Photo by College Humor

December 15th  is a date that inspires both hope and fear in students and parents alike, along with February 15th and April 15th (the latter not just because it is tax day). Why? It’s round one of college acceptance season. For some it will be merry, for others, it may come with a dose of bah humbug and coal. Here are 8 tips to help you survive college acceptance season.

  1. Acknowledge the pain. It’s okay to be down but don’t let it rule your life or ruin your holidays. This is likely the first time in your life where you will experience rejection and it’s brutal. It stinks but you will survive. Your life will not end if you don’t get into your first choice college. You may not be able to fully grasp this right now but trust me.

  2. Stay positive. If you applied early decision or early action and did not get into your first choice, you may still have a chance if your application was deferred. Try calling the admissions office, let them know how much you want to attend there and ask for feedback on how you could strengthen your application prior to the next review. Now also is a good time to learn more about the other schools on your list. It’s quite possible that you may discover your plan B is in fact the better fit.

  3. Focus on what’s within your control. Since you aren’t the one making the decision, the only thing you can do is to review your applications and make sure your next submissions are as strong as they can possibly be. Don’t spend your energy obsessing over what has already been decided. Instead, double down on your effort for your next applications.

  4. Take a road trip. If you haven’t yet visited the colleges on your list, do so. Stop by the career office and talk with the advisors about how they help students find internships and jobs after graduation. Ask to see their calendar of events. Many colleges now offer stipends for students for internships. Knowing the level of support the college provides in the all important career transition can help you make a better informed decision about where you want to go. Remember, you are going to college not just for your degree, but also as an investment in your future career. Make it a wise investment.

  5. Think long-term. Choose a college you can afford. Rule of thumb is do not borrow more than your expected first year earnings. Ideally, try to borrow a lot less. If you borrow $50,000 over ten years at 6% interest, your loan repayments will be over $550/month or 20% of your take home pay at a $50,000 annual salary. That’s a large chunk of your salary.

  6. Ask about the college’s alumni network. How strong is it? Are there alumni networking events on campus? Where do most alumni settle after graduation? While going to college far away from home may be appealing now, if your selected college doesn’t have a strong alumni network where you want to live, you’ll be giving up one of the BEST tools you will have in your job search – fellow alumni. This is probably my number one tip when choosing a college. Many college entrance advisors are skilled at finding great colleges where being from “away” as we say in Maine, improves your odds of being accepted. This is partly because colleges like to boast about the geographic breadth of their student population. Remember that choosing a great school that is little known outside of the region might not be the wisest long-term choice.

  7. Talk with current students. Ideally, speak with those majoring in a topic that interests you. See if the college offers the opportunity to attend a few classes, speak with a professor and shadow a student. If you can, spend a night or two on campus. You’ll get a much better feel of the college experience prior to committing.

  8. Think twice about your chosen major. Unless you are planning to pursue a highly technical major, such as Accounting or any of the STEM majors, both your college and major choice matters less than you would think, especially if you pursue a liberal arts education. Use your first semester or first year to explore courses to find a good fit for both your skills and interests. Switching majors can be a very costly decision, especially if it delays your graduation date. In addition to the additional tuition outlay, you’ll also be delaying the start of your earnings years.

Yes, college acceptance season can be rough on your ego. That said, learning to deal with disappointment is a good life skill to master. You definitely will need it when you start applying for internships and jobs after you graduate.

Getting used to rejection and turning it into positive action now will serve you very well in the long run. I hope that you have the joy filled experience of being accepted to your first choice college. But if it doesn’t happen, know that there is another fabulous path for you to follow.

About Lisa

Chief Career Catalyst @C2C, former Fortune 500 businesswoman, dog lover, avid skier, mediocre tennis player, golfer, new SUPer, aspiring surfer, cyclist, yoga & exercise enthusiast, happy wife & home chef. I am a regular contributor to the Bangor Daily News, and have appeared on WCSH6 where I offer career advice for college students, recent graduates and young professionals.
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