Keeping Admissions Decisions in Perspective

You heed deadlines, write and rewrite essays and gather countless bits of information to send off to admissions offices across the state and country. And then you wait. And wait.

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It’s normal to feel out of control during the college admissions process, but you needn’t, says Marie Bigham, board director at the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

“In admissions, there are four critical decisions, and you control three: where to visit, where to apply [and] where to attend. Colleges just have one: whom they will take,” she says. “Students and families have the vast majority of control in this process; you are in the driver’s seat.”

This concept can be true for financial aid decisions, too, says Jerry Pope, college consultant at Niles North and Niles West high schools in Illinois.

“A student may be looking at five small liberal arts colleges which are similar academically. Which school is having a good year? If applications are down, a school is more likely to offer money to students,” he says.

If, for a variety of reasons, selective schools are having trouble filling classes, then they come up with creative funding to out-of-state kids. In short, be an informed consumer.

Your high school counselor may be clued in, Pope says. If a school missed enrollment by 20 percent one fall, then they are likely to be more aggressive the next year.

Start your search early and ask the right questions; you might find you have options you never even considered, experts say.

Whatever the outcome, keep this in mind: admission acceptance, denial and deferment are strictly a reflection of the process, Bigham says.

“They are not an indictment about parenting or a statement about success for your future,” Bigham says. “Don’t get stuck on one or two places. Remind yourself that there are many outstanding options, really a broad breadth and depth of colleges available to you.”

– Claire Charlton