Its that nail-biting time of year: Colleges have commenced sending acceptance letters to high school seniors.
Theres still a lot of anxiousness out there, said Thomas Griffin, N.C. State Universitys director of undergraduate admissions.
And unfortunately, colleges cant admit every applicant. Its certainly understandable to be unhappy for a couple of days, said Christoph Guttentag, Duke Universitys dean of undergraduate admissions. But dont be upset for too long, he said. All is not lost, and in fact, there are so many great things awaiting that its a shame to focus on what isnt its much better to focus on what is.
So, didnt get your first choice? Dry your tears, take heart and read on for the many options students can consider in making tweaks to college plans.
Dont take it personally
Dont take rejection letters personally, said Claire Kirby, admissions director at UNC Charlotte. The sheer volume of applications schools receive means there will be a lot of people who dont get in, she said.
The numbers prove it: UNCC received 17,000 applications for 3,200 spots. UNC Chapel Hill got more than 31,300 applications and admitted 8,790. At N.C. State, close to 20,200 students applied, and about 10,000 were accepted. Duke University admitted 3,499 high school seniors from a pool of more than 32,500 applicants.
Thats a lot of applications and you cant take it personally with that many applicants in the pool. Its really competitive, Kirby said.
What if youre wait-listed?
Some universities will put students they neither accept nor deny on wait-lists. Acceptance from those lists comes in May, after students must have enrolled elsewhere, said Guttentag said.
If a student is admitted from a wait-list and wants to attend, they will forfeit the other schools enrollment fee, he said. Universities expect the number of enrolled students to decrease because of this, and Guttentag said theres even a term admissions officers use for it: summer melt.
If youre on a wait-list for a school you really want to attend, its worth contacting the school to express interest, Guttentag said.
Ask if more information is needed, and if the school would like you to send an additional letter of recommendation. But dont contact the admissions office every week, he warned, and dont be tacky.
But its not inappropriate, every two to three weeks, to send an email to the admissions office or admissions officer saying, I just want you to know Im still interested; please keep me in mind. Theres nothing wrong with that.
Focus on moving forward
Admissions officers said theyre happy to set up times to talk by phone or in person about options for students their school denied.
We feel horrible because the truth is we do disappoint many students who would be successful here, said Ashley Memory, senior assistant director of admissions at UNC Chapel Hill. And we know how much theyre hurting, and we hurt for them. We are here to talk to them, and we are here for them.
Admissions officers said its important to keep an open mind: Chances are, students got into at least one or more other schools, and chances are better that students could also be happy at those schools. A college experience, Memory said, depends not so much on the actual school but what students make of their time there.
If a school denies a student, officers said, its a good bet the student is a better fit at another school. Another option for getting experience at a dream school, Memory said, is graduate school.
Tools to use
Aside from speaking with high school guidance counselors and admissions officers, students who didnt get into their top choice school and arent sure where to turn can go to the College Foundation of North Carolina website, at cfnc.org.
The site offers a free service called the College Redirection module. Its connected with the states 58 community colleges, 36 independent colleges and the 17 schools in the UNC system, said Mark Wiles, director of the CFNC Pathways program.
Heres how it works: Students enter information about themselves, including high school GPA, SAT/ACT scores and intended college major. Schools still accepting applications or with openings will search entries and contact students theyre interested in to get more information.
Wiles said the program began in 2003, and about 650 students who enter are placed with schools each year.
The transfer option
Thats where transferring comes in.
Most schools consider transfer students after a successful year at college somewhere else.
Some schools have 2+2 programs, which means students can attend one public state school for two years and finish their degree for the next two years at another, all while staying on track for a particular major. At N.C. State, for example, Griffin said, an engineering student can enter the program and study for two years at UNC Wilmington and transfer as a junior into States engineering program.
Theres also the Comprehensive Articulation Agreement, which says that if students complete a two-year associates degree at a community college, they can transfer to a four-year college and can consider their general education requirements fulfilled for schools in the UNC system, Griffin said.
Sometimes students miss out on a great experience where they are, Memory said, because theyre too focused on leaving. Universities like to see that students did well academically and made the most of their first year or years of college when they consider them as transfer students, she said.
Memory said often students surprise themselves. Students end up enrolling at other universities that serve them well, and then end up being perfectly happy there.
Ruebens: 704-358-5294; Twitter: @lruebens