Student-centric advice and objective recommendations
Higher education has never been more confusing or expensive. Our goal is to help you navigate the very big decisions related to higher ed with objective information and expert advice. Each piece of content on the site is original, based on extensive research, and reviewed by multiple editors, including a subject matter expert. This ensures that all of our content is up-to-date, useful, accurate, and thorough.
Our reviews and recommendations are based on extensive research, testing, and feedback. We may receive commission from links on our website, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted. You can find a complete list of our partners here.
By Lisa Freedland Lisa Freedland is a Scholarships360 writer with personal experience in psychological research and content writing. She has written content for an online fact-checking organization and has conducted research at the University of Southern California as well as the University of California, Irvine.Lisa graduated from the University of Southern California in Fall 2021 with a degree in Psychology. Learn about oureditorial policies
Lisa Freedland is a Scholarships360 writer with personal experience in psychological research and content writing. She has written content for an online fact-checking organization and has conducted research at the University of Southern California as well as the University of California, Irvine.Lisa graduated from the University of Southern California in Fall 2021 with a degree in Psychology.Full Bio
Learn about oureditorial policies
Reviewed by Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College. Learn more about ourEducational Review Board
Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.Full Bio
Learn more about ourEducational Review Board
Posted: November 6th, 2021
Bummed that you weren’t accepted to your dream school? Well, on the bright side, you can always reapply to a college (trust me, I know from personal experience)! There are a few things that you should do before reapplying. Most importantly, you should definitely try and strengthen your application – but how exactly can you do that?
To find out what you should do before reapplying to a college that rejected you, keep on reading!
Retake the ACT or SAT
Maybe your ACT or SAT score wasn’t exactly what you hoped for when you applied to colleges the first time. In that case, consider retaking the test(s).Your high school grades can no longer be changed. However, SAT or ACT scores definitely can be (and can make a difference!). Make sure to practice before you take them again, though. Here are a few helpful practice resources for the SAT and ACT:
- Khan Academy Official SAT Practice
- College Board SAT Practice Tests
- ACT Online Practice Test
- ACT Practice Test and Study Guide
- Kaplan ACT Practice
Do your research
Wondering what score you should aim for? Well, each university has a unique range of scores that they usually accept. Find out by doing a “*insert university name* average SAT (or ACT)” search. What typically shows up is the middle 50% of accepted standardized test scores for that college (think the 25th-75th percentile). We highly recommend you try to aim for a score within this range (and on the higher end, if possible). While getting a score below this range doesn’t mean rejection, it may lower your chances.
If you want more information about your dream college’s accepted applicants’ average stats (GPA, SAT, etc.), you can also look up “*insert college name* student profile” and try to find the one for the most recent class. This example of a student profile from Boston University can help illustrate what you are looking for. And if you’re wondering why the scores are particularly high this year, it’s likely because the university did not require all students to submit test scores for admission this year (2021). Thus, it’s likely only students who performed very well on the SAT and ACT who submitted their scores, which makes the “middle 50%” seem higher than it normally would be. So, if you feel like your score does not necessarily meet such standards, remember that many universities are no longer requiring students to send them in!
Essentially, if you feel that your application would feel better off without your standardized test scores (and the school doesn’t require them), feel free to leave them off. There are always other ways to upgrade your application, so let’s keep going!
See Also: ACT vs. SAT: How to decide which test to take or How to improve your SAT score in 6 steps
Submit a totally new application
If you plan on reapplying to a school that rejected you, it’s of utmost importance that you send in a new and improved brand new application. College application boards will likely read your new application alongside your previous one, looking for “proof” that the new you will be a good addition to their student body. So, to upgrade your application, we recommend first looking into what your target university is looking for in their students. Is it a higher GPA, more extracurriculars or work experience, better recommendation letters? Either way, here are some things that you can try to upgrade or change before submitting your application a second-time around:
- Definitely write a new essay
- Gain more work, internship, volunteer, or extracurricular experiences
- Retake standardized tests
- If you take a gap year, get letters from the people who have interacted with you during that year
- Most importantly, show them how you’ve grown in the past year (whether personally, academically, or anything of that sort!)
What to do in the meantime
No matter how early or late you submitted your college applications during this application cycle, the next one is likely a few months away. So, what should you do in the meantime? Well, you have a few options (and good ones at that!) to keep yourself occupied. Let’s get into them.
Attend another university
A possible choice, and perhaps one you’ve already considered, is attending another university for a year (and subsequently transferring to the school you’re thinking of reapplying to). Doing so will be a good opportunity to show your target school that you’re passionate about getting an education. And, if you decide to attend a community college, you’ll accumulate some college credit at a cost that is likely lower than what you’d pay at a four-year university. Further, attending another university for a year will give you the chance to raise your GPA and participate in some extra- curricular activities, especially if you feel that those were somewhat lacking in your original application.
If you anticipate that you may end up transferring, be sure to check out these helpful articles:
- How to transfer colleges: A step-by-step guide
- How to transfer from a community college
- How to write a college transfer essay (with examples)
Alternatively, you may end up liking the school you attend instead – and no longer feel the need to transfer. If so, great!
On the other hand, if you are dead set on going to a particular college and don’t want to have to transfer in, another option you have is taking a gap year.
Consider a gap year
Depending on who you ask, taking a gap year is either (1) a risky decision or (2) an opportunity to boost your chances the second time (application cycle) around. Those who deem it a “risky” decision claim that colleges may see it as a “waste of time.” However, if you use this time to apply yourself and get involved in something meaningful to you, colleges will see that – and appreciate it too!
So, what does something “meaningful” look like? Well, it includes a range of things: volunteering, working, interning, or even traveling. Whether you decide to work at your local coffee shop, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or even go abroad and study another language – what’s most important is that you reflect on how you grew from your experiences. Taking a gap year and accumulating new experiences may be especially helpful for those whose applications included few “life experiences,” by helping fill this perceived gap.
See Also: Taking a gap year: Everything you need to know
Talk to the admissions counselor
Before you go about starting your new application to a school that previously rejected you, it may be a good idea to get in contact with the admissions counselor(s) who reviewed your application the first time. To do so, we would recommend writing a letter to said counselor, explaining why you believe that school is the best fit for you, your plans to reapply, and that you will certainly commit if accepted. If you wish to speak with the counselor face-to-face (whether virtually or in-person), be sure to include a request for a meeting as well.
While it is certainly possible that the counselor(s) or school staff will refuse to meet with you, they may just agree to a meeting! If so, we highly recommend preparing a list of questions you have for them. You may want to ask what they recommend you do in the meantime, what schools would be best to attend before transferring, and anything else you should do to increase your chances of admission. We recommend not focusing on what you did wrong, and rather emphasizing what steps you should take from here on out – this will show that you’re serious about reapplying and may give off a better first impression.
After the meeting (if you get one), be sure to write the counselor(s) a handwritten thank-you letter. Make sure to keep in touch with them every couple of months to show the progress you’re making.
Hopefully, with the counselor’s help, you’ll receive an acceptance letter the second time-around. With that, we wish you good luck, and a happy college application season!
Frequently asked questions
Can you ask a university to reconsider?
Yes. While students certainly can ask a university to reconsider, these are rarely, if ever, successful in changing an admission decision. Many counselors only recommend that students appeal their decision if an important piece of information was missing from their application. Otherwise, trying to appeal an admissions decision is often a waste of a student’s time and effort. A better option is to take a gap year or attend another university and transfer. This way, you can get more experience under your belt if you ultimately decide to reapply.
Can I ask to be placed on the waitlist?
Sure, you can email or call the admissions office and ask, but usually, if the college deemed you eligible for the waitlist, they would add you after reviewing your application. It never doesn’t hurt to ask though!
What to do if no college accepts you?
If none of the colleges you apply to accept you, you have a few options to take. You can:
- Apply to other colleges that are still accepting applications
- Take a gap year
- Attend a local or community college
- Plan to apply again next year