College Rejection Letter: What to Do Next

A male student in a pink jacket worried after receiving a college rejection letter.
October 16, 2023
5 min read


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 10/16/23

Have you recently received a college rejection letter? Don’t worry! Here are the next steps to take after receiving a letter of rejection. 

Female student looks frustrated receiving college rejection letter

Receiving a rejection letter can be disheartening, especially if you spent a lot of time on your application. However, you shouldn’t lose hope after receiving a letter of rejection! We’ll cover what to do after receiving this letter, why colleges send them, and how to cope with a college rejection. 

Let’s get started!

How to Deal With a Rejection Letter From Your Dream College

If you’ve recently received a rejection letter from a college, don’t let it get you down. There are many reasons a school may reject you: try not to take a school's decision personally. Instead, refocus on how you can improve your chances of acceptance moving forward. 

Let’s go over the steps you can take to deal with an admission rejection letter from college. 

1. Remember You’re Not Alone

Many students receive rejection letters every year. Unfortunately, you’re not the first student to receive one, and you certainly won’t be the last. Try not to let your letter get you down. Take some time to get yourself into a better headspace first. Then you can pick yourself up and determine your next move.

2. Check Your Status With Other Applications

When one door closes, another opens. If you’ve been accepted to other schools, celebrate those wins! Even if a school isn’t your first choice, it may offer unique opportunities that will give you an amazing college experience.

3. Consider Your Other Options

Listen to your heart when it comes to taking the next steps. Your options include: 

  • Accepting an offer at another school 
  • Taking a year off to pursue meaningful experiences, retake classes, travel, or work
  • Apply to other colleges if you still have time to do so

There’s no wrong answer here. As long as you keep your head high and move forward, you can pick the choice that makes the most sense for your timeline and goals.

4. Retake Tests and Try Again

If your test scores were low or you didn’t meet academic requirements at your target school, you may want to use this time to improve your future application. Remember to evaluate the average of the incoming class rather than the minimum requirements when setting your academic goals.

5. Seek Help From an Admissions Consultant

If you want to increase your chances of acceptance, consider reaching out to an experienced admissions consultant. Admissions experts who are former admissions committee members and writing experts can help you perfect every aspect of your application.

Reasons Colleges Send Rejection Letters

reasons why colleges send rejection letters

There are several reasons you may receive a college rejection letter. Not getting into a college doesn’t necessarily mean your application wasn’t strong or that a school wouldn’t accept you the second time. Let’s go over the most common reasons colleges send rejections. 

You Didn’t Meet the School’s Academic Requirements 

One common reason schools don’t accept students is because they don’t meet academic standards or requirements. This may mean you didn’t complete the necessary prerequisite courses, your test scores were below that of admitted students, or your qualifications weren’t at the same level as other candidates.

When applying for college, it’s important to research the average grades of the current class to understand academic expectations. With most schools, only meeting the minimum requirements isn’t enough to get you accepted. 

You should also thoroughly research necessary prerequisites and testing requirements before applying to avoid missing anything. 

Your Application Was Incomplete or Had Errors

It happens more often than you think; many incomplete applications are rejected each year automatically. This means that no matter how strong your application is, it may have been rejected before an admissions committee got the chance to review it. 

Before sending each application, ensure that every field is filled out and every necessary document has been sent to your target school. Similarly, errors can cause rejection of your application before your qualifications are reviewed. Common application errors include: 

  • Grammar and spelling mistakes 
  • Using the wrong school name 
  • Providing incomplete or inconsistent details about your experiences and academics

The best way to avoid rejection because of incomplete applications or mistakes is to carefully review all materials before submitting them.

Your Program Is Full 

Program seats can fill up quickly, especially at more competitive schools. As a result, many qualified applicants might be turned away. Sometimes a school will put you on a waiting list or defer your application if this is the case, but not always. 

There may not always be a surefire way to avoid rejection at selective programs. 

However, you can help avoid the issue by sending in applications as early as possible before the program fills up. 

The School Doesn’t Match Your Needs

Sometimes a school may send a rejection letter if they feel your goals don’t fit the school. For example, if your application states that you’re looking for a big city experience, but the school is located in a rural area, your application may be rejected. 

This typically only happens when the school has to make tough decisions between multiple qualified candidates. 

Can You Appeal a College Rejection?

What if you get rejected from every college you applied to? What is the best way to proceed after you’re denied admission everywhere? Well, another option is to appeal your rejections. But, whether or not you can appeal a college rejection depends on the school’s policy. 

So, how do you appeal a school rejection letter? The first thing you should do is take some time to gather your thoughts and feelings: you don’t want to communicate with colleges when you’re angry or upset. 

Crumpled paper on notebook

There is typically a timeframe in which you can appeal a college rejection letter, which varies by school. For example, UC Berkeley first-year applicants have four weeks to appeal, while transfer applicants have two weeks. These are the steps you should follow if you plan to appeal: 

  • Research the school’s appeal policy 
  • Plan to submit your appeal within the designated time limit
  • Present factual, new evidence that positively impacts your candidacy (a higher GPA, updated test scores, new extracurriculars, etc.) 
  • Don’t come across as too defensive or accusatory 
  • Review your letter/materials carefully before you submit them
  • Prepare for all possible outcomes

Ensure you check what the school asks for to appeal a rejection. For example, students appealing to UC Berkeley can write a 500-word letter. Don’t send anything extra that colleges don’t ask for. 

Your chance of acceptance after appealing a rejection letter is challenging to gauge, but various estimates indicate you have a 1-2% chance of winning your appeal. If you have new information to provide your first choice school, it’s worth a shot! 

FAQs: Dealing With a Rejection from College

If you received a rejection letter from a college and have more questions, check out these FAQs. 

1. Do Colleges Give Rejection Letters?

Yes, colleges send rejection notices to students who weren’t admitted. 

2. How Should You Respond When You Receive A Rejection Letter From A College?

How you deal with getting rejected from college is up to you. You can choose to appeal your rejection, take a gap year, accept an offer at another school, or apply to more schools if you have time. 

3. Can I Ask a College Why I Was Rejected? 

You could theoretically ask why you were rejected, but you’re likely to receive a generic response (or no response at all). We suggest directing your time and energy toward your next steps rather than lingering on why you weren’t selected. 

4. Can You Reapply to a College After Getting Rejected? 

You can reapply to colleges that rejected you in the next admissions cycle. Ensure you strengthen your application and edit it to perfection before submission. 

Getting Into Your Dream College With Quad

Although it can be disappointing, don’t let a college rejection letter get you down. Take this time to consider all your options, improve your application, retake tests, and keep moving forward. 

If you have more questions about how to get into college after receiving a rejection letter, speaking with a Quad Education admissions consultant can help provide you with the clarity you need. We’re passionate about helping students craft compelling applications: set up a call with us today to see how we can help! 

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