What if I don’t get into my early decision school?

“What if I don’t get into my early decision school?”

As students prepare to choose their early decision schools, they may feel a sense of panic. After all, if they don’t get into their early action, then their college dreams are crushed, right? Wrong! Although about half our students get into their early app schools, the other half who are deferred or rejected are left confused, bewildered, shocked, upset and anxious.

The worst part of not getting in early is not the actual rejection. Since most students are applying to more than ten other schools, it’s not so much this one rejection, but the implications of it. What does it mean for my other schools? If my early rejects me, does this mean the other schools will too?

The simple answer: absolutely no way. In fact, there is zero correlation between the results of early apps and regular apps. So what does getting rejecting in early mean for regular apps? Nothing. Nothing at all. We have seen too many counter cases of all varieties. Here are a few:

  • Student A got rejected fromUChicago but accepted to Harvard and Yale (Harvard waitlist)
  • Student B got accepted toUChicago but dropped from Northwestern, Johns Hopkins and Berkeley
  • Student C got deferred from Penn, dropped from Northwestern and Cornell and then accept to Penn during regular
  • Student D got rejected from Yale, then accepted to Stanford and Columbia
  • Student E got rejected from Harvard, then accepted to Princeton and rejected everywhere else

The list goes on and on and one day we will compile all this data, but it’s enough now to see that there is no correlation between early results and regular results.

What’s more, many are under the false belief that if you are accepted to one school, you will be accepted to all or most schools below – this is not true in the least. There are too many factors involved in the admissions process. Not all schools see the same student in the same way. There are all kinds of hidden agendas and plans, goals and procedure by each admissions committee. Also, in recent years, schools have been more careful about admitting students whom they do not think will actually attend. It makes it very difficult for them to meet their minimum number of students. This works for high and low students.

For example, one of our students five years ago who eventually went to Dartmouth, applied to UMichigan early. He was rejected and the school counselor was so shocked he called the admissions committee. They promptly replied that if the student really intends to come, they would accept him.

Do You Have a Theme?

The most common mistake students make in their applications is presenting a well-balanced profile rather than focusing on a unique theme. One student, Jill, who was rejected from Yale early, came to us for advice. About 60% of the time, we review an application and advise the student to make some small adjustments to highlight their themes better. However, in Jill, we saw an untapped potential in her application and a chance to create a much stronger application. Working pro bono, one of our most experienced Mentors spent a few days editing her essays and application.

The student cared passionately about human rights. She was also a writer, musician and painter. She was also student council president and had completed a dozen community service projects. She was all over the place! In the application, we saw human rights as the best theme to focus on. We took out all other non-related items in the essays. That meant deleting content about student council president, music and most of her community service. Her human rights club was discussed in her main essay. In the supplement essays she talked about her activist non-fiction writing and political activist poems, which had been published in various magazines. She also discussed her art portfolio, which centered on activist art as well.

A few months later, she was accepted to Harvard, Dartmouth, Columbia and Brown.