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How to Avoid a College Rejection by Crafting the Perfect Application List

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Frustrated teenage woman working at a laptop computer on college applications.

Join a group of parents whose students are getting college admissions letters and you’re going to hear the same conversations. Some are elated, others are confused, and many are disappointed.

I guarantee you that the elated parents have students who took the time to research the college and made sure they were at the top of the applicant pool when they applied. The confused and disappointed parents more than likely have students who applied to elite colleges with little hope of being offered admission or little hope of being able to afford it if their students were accepted.

It seems in today’s competitive college market, parents and students are often blinded by the hype. They fall for the false narrative that a student can’t be successful with a degree from an unknown college. They believe the lie that you can’t get a superior education from a small liberal arts college. They fall prey to the peer pressure from other parents who love to name drop and brag about where their student is applying.

Unfortunately, students suffer when their dreams are squashed by a college that only admits 10 percent or fewer of their applicants. In fact, elite colleges work hard to boost their rejection rates every year.

The good news is your student can avoid rejection by throwing a wider college search net and considering other options when applying to college.

Search outside your state or region

Colleges pride themselves on having a diverse student body. Each year, they populate the freshman class with a variety of student types. This often means that an East Coast college will seek applicants from Southern states. Or a West Coast university may be looking for students from the Midwest. If students look outside their hometown regions, their chances of acceptance increase. In addition, some states have reciprocal agreements with other states to offer in-state tuition rates to out-of-state students.

For instance, when my daughter applied to a college in Boston, she was the only applicant from Texas for her program. The college recognized her value in that she would be bringing an entirely different culture to their student body. It resulted in her not only being offered admission but receiving a sizeable amount of merit aid to entice her to accept their offer.

Consider all types of colleges

Many students stick to the obvious in-state public universities. These universities are often large and have tens of thousands of applicants every year.

But if students broaden their searches to include private colleges, out-of-state universities, and liberal arts colleges, the possibilities are endless. Applying to a small liberal arts college could mean your student is at the top of the applicant pool and wiil all but be guaranted admission and a sizeable aid package. Many smaller private colleges have higher acceptance rates and often larger aid packages because they are subsidized by alumni contributions.

By sticking to large universities, the applicant pool is larger and the aid packages are traditionally smaller or non-existent. The financial package might be better at an out-of-state school.

Seek a career, not a degree

Not every student is meant to pursue a degree at a traditional college or university. If your student is interested in pursuing a trade, consider researching technical and training schools. Many colleges, like Pennsylvania College of Technology incorporate career training with a liberal arts education. They look for students who are seeking a career, not simply a degree.

By choosing this path, your student will be moving toward a career and enter the work force as a trained professional. There are culinary schools, fashion design schools, nursing schools, graphic design schools, and many more options where students can receive hands-on training in a chosen career.

Find your niche and exploit it

When creating a college list, search for specific degree paths that might be off the radar. These would be college majors that have few interested applicants. When my daughter applied to Boston University, we learned if she were interested in studying linguistics her acceptance and scholarship were guaranteed. The college had few students pursuing this major and was trying to increase participation in the program.

This may require some research and some questions asked during an interview or visit, but if your student finds a unique niche, it could mean guaranteed acceptance if all the other criteria is met.

By widening your student’s search net and being more creative with the college list, his or her chances of receiving an affirmative answer instead of a rejection will increase tremendously.

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