Admissions Decisions: Acceptance to denial and everything in between


The applications, recommendations, and SAT/ACT scores have been submitted. School visits and admissions interviews have long been completed. Meanwhile, high school seniors have begun the waiting game. They are waiting anxiously for the hopefully thick envelope in the mail confirming their acceptance to their top colleges.

While students are expecting to read the words “…pleased to inform you that your have been accepted…” and are praying fervently not to read “…regret to inform you…” students may not be aware that there are several other acceptance decisions that admissions offices use. Here are a few of the other common admissions decisions applicants may consider:

Wait list – Admissions offices have a limited number of students that can be accepted into the incoming freshman. The college knows and expects that a percentage of students they accept will not end up accepting the offer of admission. Therefore,  many colleges wait list students who were not outright accepted. Applicants may be pulled off the wait list as students who were offered admission notify the college that they will not be attending as expected. There is no guarantee that a wait listed student will be offered admission. So it is important to accept an admissions offer from another school. Applicants may wish to ask the Admissions officer how big the waitlist is and what percentage of students on their wait list typically are offered admissions.
Colleges use wait lists not only for admission, but also for popular programs that may have more applicants than there is space in the program. Typically, this occurs in programs such allied health programs, programs that require labs courses or clinical practice. It is possible to be accepted to a college, but wait listed for your preferred major.

Conditional Acceptance – Sometimes admissions officers may not be quite certain that an applicant would be successful at the college or in a particular program after reviewing a student’s high school record and test scores, but want to give the student a chance. In these instances the applicant may be offered a Conditional Acceptance. As implied, there are requirements or conditions tied to the acceptance that must be met before the student will be offered full acceptance.

The applicant may need to provide final senior year grades or take a summer course in a subject that appears to be a weakness and achieve a grade of C or better. Conditional Acceptance may also limit the applicant to enrolling as a half time student and pass with a C or better during the first semester of college. Once the condition is met the student is allowed full acceptance.

There are a couple of admissions options that students may initiate:

Deferred Admissions – Students have an additional option at many colleges, and that is to defer admissions. Students who want to attend college but want to put off enrollment for a semester or a year often seek this type of admission. This is a choice for students who may need to work to raise money for college, who want to travel for a year between high school and college, or who may be dealing with a medical or personal issue that would interfere with attending college.

Transfer Admissions – Students who do not get into their top choice college may take a semester or more at a college that did offer acceptance and then apply for admission as a transfer student to the first choice college. The benefit of this type of admission is that the transfer student can prove to the admissions officer that he/she can be successful at the college level.  Students who plan to transfer should focus on general education courses or prerequisite courses that would be easily transferred to the new college.  Check with the Registrar at the receiving college to confirm which courses would be transferable based on the expected major. Generally, transfer credit is accepted as long as the grade for the course is a C or better and the course description parallels one at the receiving college.

So while some students may be disappointed that they did not get accepted to one of their top schools right off the bat, there are a number of alternative options available to students.

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