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Decisions, Decisions

By Robert LeVine

February, March, April … the colleges release their admissions offers, causing an emotional roller-coaster ride for students and families. There are so many highs and lows, so many moments of anticipation, exhilaration, heart-crushing denials and life-changing decisions.

Let us guide you through the morass.

Do not be surprised when everything does not work out as you had hoped. American college admissions are neither linear nor perfectly predictable. You may be rejected by a school you were sure was a pretty safe bet, while your not-as-smart friend got the “yes” you were expecting. Then again, you may well achieve some schools you thought were out of your league. This is the nature of the admissions beast.

Please do not consider a college decision as the end of your world, the beginning of a perfect life, or a judgment on you or the caliber of your family’s parenting. Colleges are making decisions to create their communities with all the diversity, strength and personality that they think works best in their educational systems. A rejection is not necessarily a sign that they did not like you. Very often, admissions professionals are themselves frustrated when applicants that they like are not chosen, or perhaps are chosen and then displaced by “institutional priorities.” Sometimes they like you but believe that another environment is better suited for you.

If you are lucky enough to achieve your first-choice dream school, congratulations! However, amidst your glee, show some empathy and grace toward others. Not everyone gets what they want. Be mindful of how you speak and act around your peers. Be supportive, not boastful. Don’t shove your new school’s swag in everyone’s faces, at least not right away when the new wounds are wide open.

Also, don’t be in a hurry to decide which college you will attend. After years of preparing for this moment, so many tests and so many essays, take a moment to consider your decision wisely. You have at least a month to think about your future; deposits are usually due on May 1. Sometimes, you think you know exactly what you want, but re-research the school to be sure. At least 20 percent of the time, people change their minds at the last minute. Sometimes it feels like you are lost in a forest with no good direction. Get advice, consider your options, and make the best possible decision. You deserve that!

But how do you make your decision? Some people rely upon name-brand, reputation or rankings. We recommend instead that you focus on the three factors of fit: the structure of the education (not its perceived caliber); the environment on the campus; and the opportunities for inspiration, education and experience beyond campus. College is a time for growth. Make sure you have all the best assets to develop yourself to the fullest.

Sometimes, you are not admitted, but you are also not rejected. Beware the waiting list! This can be a cruel fate. First, while your friends are deciding on their schools, you are still stuck in the middle of admissions purgatory. Second, colleges seldom grab applicants from waiting lists, so do not get your hopes up. Third, they usually don’t even tell you if they have completed their waiting list efforts, so you might never hear anything abut this potential “opportunity.” Move forward without praying for their miracle. If you do “get the call” and decide to take a spot in their class, all you lose is the deposit you made for the other school.

Finally, some schools – not all – will accept an application to appeal your rejection. This is usually a mirage. Very seldom do schools change their minds just because you want them to change their minds. If you feel the emotional need to file an appeal, that’s fine, but as with waiting lists, do not get your hopes up.

In the end, the best news of all is this: pretty much everyone enjoys college! However, what is most important is that you grow and learn during those four years. College is not about an offer from an admissions committee. It’s about your success, during school and beyond.

Good luck!

Robert LeVine is the founder and CEO of University Consultants of America, an independent educational consultancy assisting students around the world with applications to colleges, universities and graduate schools. For more information, call University Consultants of America, Inc. at 1-800-465-5890 or visit

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