Having a “balanced list” is one of the most critical components to college admissions. Every year we receive a frantic phone call from at least one student we have never met who has been denied at every school they’ve applied to. Often, these are top students! How does this happen? They apply to only highly selective schools and get shut out—a heartbreaking experience.
Many families are simply unaware of the competition at the national and international level, and because these students have performed exceedingly well in high school, they assume they will do equally well with college admissions.
Key Detail!! It is CRITICAL that all students place at least one or two “safety schools” on their list. This means they should be at the TOP of the applicant pool when comparing grades and test scores. That step alone should prevent denial on every front, but if you do get denied, there are steps to be taken.
1) First, immediately find out if any colleges are still accepting applications.
2) Secondly, look for transfer options into your chosen colleges. Are there community colleges who have a high rate of transfer success into your schools? For example, Santa Monica College has a high transfer rate into UCLA. You must perform at a very high level at SMC to get there, but it is possible! And Berkeley City College does very well with transfer rates to UC Berkeley. Having these backup plans can help make your college dream a reality.
3) Thirdly, consider taking a “gap year” to apply again next year. The only way this plan is productive is if the student has a definite “plan” such as travel, internship, job, or combination of several activities that will make them more compelling the following year as an applicant.
4) Lastly, no matter where you apply, take the time to put together HIGH QUALITY APPLICATIONS. There are many accomplished students who just “slap together” applications, and do not submit a true representation of themselves. Whether you’re applying to colleges, to internships or jobs, don’t ever shortchange your chances by rushing an application!