No Acceptance Letters? You Still Have Options

Find the right college for you.

You may be asking yourself, "What if I don’t get into college?" Even if you didn’t receive any college acceptance letters this time around, you still have options—and you can still go to college. The United States has nearly 4,000 colleges, so you can still find a college that will be a great fit for you.

Your first step is to talk to your counselor, your principal, or a teacher. The professionals at your school have experience helping other students through this and can advise you on what to do next. Here are some other actions you may choose to take.

Apply to other colleges 

Some have late-admission policies or rolling deadlines — use College Search to find colleges that are still accepting applications for next year.

Find Out Why You Weren’t Admitted

Ask admission officers, politely and respectfully, to explain why you didn’t get in. Use that information to your benefit by improving future applications.

adult professional with student reviewing a letter

Can You Appeal the Decision?

Appealing (that is, asking admission officers to reverse their decision) is an option but only at certain colleges. A successful appeal is rare and requires you to prove your case. For instance, you discover your high school sent the wrong transcript to the college. Talk to your counselor if you have questions about appealing.

Is There an Option to Reapply?

In rare instances, a college that has turned you down may allow you to reapply during your senior year if your grades or test scores improve dramatically. But this is an alternative only if the college’s application deadline has not expired. Contact the college’s admission office to ask if this is an option.

Would a Transfer Be an Option?

Many students in this situation spend a year or two taking general-education courses at a community college — most of which admit all students on a first-come, first-served basis — and then transfer to a four-year college.

Whichever route you decide to take, remember this is only a temporary setback. Many students have been in the same position as you and made it into college. You’re not alone. Stay positive and focused, and one day, you’ll receive your college acceptance letter!


Do colleges email you if you’re not accepted?

Colleges send out emails to applicants, but they usually don’t contain an acceptance or nonacceptance letter. Instead, the email you receive is likely going to direct you to the college’s online application portal. Today, most colleges have an online portal where students can check the status of their applications.

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Do universities reject you straight away?

Not usually. Each application goes through an evaluation process that may take a few weeks. Some colleges require applicants to write an essay while others don’t. Some schools focus on test scores while others place a lot of importance on the college interview. Each college has its own application process to move through before making an admission decision.

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How long does it take for a college to accept or reject you?

Every college has its own timeline for evaluating student applications. It’s not unusual for a college’s application process to take four to six weeks. Colleges that have an application portal allow students to go online to check the status of their applications at any time. Also, many colleges post both acceptances and nonacceptances on the application portal at the same time. Students shouldn’t jump to conclusions based on the length of time it takes to receive a response from a college.

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What is a likely letter?

This letter serves as an unofficial message to a student that they’re almost certain to gain acceptance to a school. Likely letters are rare and only sent to applicants that a college considers very desirable. Of course, a likely letter doesn’t guarantee the student will be accepted to the college. For instance, if the student’s grades suffer after receiving the likely letter, then the invitation would be withdrawn. Think of it as a school’s way of showing how impressed it is with a student. Check with your potential colleges to see if they send likely letters.

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