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Navigating Atypical Admission Offers

Today, we’re discussing what if you’re accepted to your top college but not as expected. Let’s explore three ways to navigate this situation. are three ways we’re gonna talk about today.

One is, but not for your preferred starting term. Another is, but not for your preferred major. And a third is, but not for your preferred campus.

So let’s start with not your preferred term. Some colleges might say you have to start a little early like the summer or a little late like spring semester or sophomore year. Let’s break those down.

A college might ask you to start early in the summer if they think you would benefit from more of a transition from high school to college. So rather than dumping you onto campus in the beginning of fall semester with a gajillion people and a full course load of five classes, they’re gonna start you with only two or three classes and a smaller student body give you a chance to get your sea legs, learn your way around, make some friends before everybody else shows up. And that can be a real benefit to you.

Colleges also know that some students who start there in the beginning of freshman year aren’t going to make it to second semester or to that second year and they’re trying to pre-fill some of those spots with spring or sophomore year acceptances.

So what do you do if you are accepted for the spring? What do you do in the fall? Well, you could take classes at your local county college and they’ll be making progress on your degree and then bring those credits to the college in the spring. You could also do a service project. A research project. You could do an internship, an externship, you could do a co-op or you can even go to the college in that first semester, even though they said you’re not accepted until the second semester.

What does that look like? It means you are a non-matriculated student. In other words, you’re not a degree seeking student, but you’re still a person who can pay them to take classes. But you’re gonna get last pick on classes because all the matriculated students get first pick. So you might wind up with some Friday classes, some evening classes, maybe even weekend classes, and you can’t live on campus. You gotta figure out where you’re gonna live off campus; find some temporary housing, maybe with a family or friends or a short term rental or with some upperclassmen.

But you can take classes, you can get a student id, you can join clubs, you can make friends, and you can go to football games. And then your second semester you get to move into those dorms.

Some colleges even accept students for sophomore year knowing that some students won’t make it all the way to sophomore year. They won’t retain from freshman to sophomore year. They’re trying to pre-fill those spots because if they spent the money to accept you, they don’t wanna spend that money again looking for brand new students.

So what do you do with your freshman year? Well, you could go to community college or any of the other things we just discussed, but you could also — I don’t know — pick your second choice college, the top choice of the ones that have said yes to you for that freshman year and say yes to the college that accepted you for sophomore year. So you kind of get to have your cake and eat it too, where you can go all the way until February or March of freshman year before making that final decision of where will you be for sophomore year? Will you stay where you are? ’cause it turns out you like it just fine after all.

Or will you move on to bigger and better things? They’d love for you to just go to a community college. ’cause then they know for sure you’re coming to them for that sophomore year and they’re gonna get at least three years of your money. But you know, you want to hedge your bets and play the field.

So the second, what if I’m accepted but not to my first choice major? Let’s talk about that. If you’re accepted to your first choice major, that’s called a direct admit. They accepted you, and for the major you’ve selected; many colleges also ask you for a second or even a third choice major.

This is in case they don’t have room for you in your preferred major or if your preferred major is just more competitive than the rest of the college. So maybe you have the grades, you have the scores, you have the extracurricular activities and essays, and winning personality of someone they want to be at their college but not quite for that super competitive business school or engineering school or fancy major that their school is very well known for.

So they’re doing this for a few reasons. One, there might just not be enough room. Two, this college might be guarding their ranking on certain lists; and one thing they get ranked on is the average GPA, the average test scores of the students they accept directly to that program, and the percent of students they accept versus decline. So by accepting you for the college but declining you for the major, they get to keep their ranking high on these fancy lists so that people who are looking for the “best program” will think that they’re a better program based on these statistics. Meanwhile, you can still go to that college freshman year, take your general education requirements you are going to be taking anyway, take some electives, which can even include classes in your major. And as long as your grades are good, you can then move into that major for sophomore year. There are even some colleges that don’t let students declare until sophomore year anyway. So it’s really not the end of the world if you’re not in your preferred major for that first year.

The third thing is, what if you’re accepted but not for your preferred campus? So maybe you applied for the main campus ’cause that’s where all the fun is, or that’s the city you wanted to be in, or that’s what’s close to home. And they’ve said, look, we’re going to accept you, but you’ve gotta start your freshman, maybe even sophomore year at one of our branch campuses or studying abroad or online or at our affiliated community college. And you can dorm here, but we’re gonna bus you to classes over there. So, you know, why would they be doing this. Again, it could be they just don’t have the room. It could be that, you know, they’re trying to inflate their numbers. Uh, it could be they’re trying to say yes to more students, but ultimately if they have more campuses, they have to fill those campuses with somebody and they’re not in as in high demand as their main campus.

So, you know, what do you do if you are accepted for one of these things? But really what you want, really what you want is the main campus. You want freshman year, first semester into your major. This is the stuff that you want. You’ve got options.

One option is you can negotiate, you can call up your admissions rep at the college and say, I’ve been accepted. I’m very excited. This is my top choice college, but I really need to be there freshman year. I really need to be on campus. I really need to be there first semester in my major or else I’m going to pick a different college that is offering me these things. A direct admit, you know, starting that first semester freshman year or you know, if you’ve been accepted to another college in that city and that’s where you want to go, you can tell them, I’ll pick another college in your city, but I’d rather go to your college. You can even blame your parents and say, look, my parents are saying I gotta pick this other offer, but I’d rather pick you; and if you’re willing to offer me the same thing, then my parents will let me go there and all is right in the world.

But ultimately, even if they don’t budge in that attempt to negotiate, you can still choose to go to that college. And so what if your first semester or two are a little weird or a little janky? But at the end of the day, you’re gonna get to go to the college that you wanted to. You’re gonna get the education that you wanted. You’re gonna have the degree that you wanted. It’s gonna be on your resume for life and everything that comes after. So consider both options. Try to get what you want, but also consider accepting yes for an answer.

And if you have questions, call us at (732) 556-8220.
We are here to help.

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