- Why did you get denied.
- What you can do better next time.
- What you can do TODAY!
- Qualifications: Your SAT/ACT/SAT IIs were not competitive enough for that year OR your GPA was on the borderline.
- Application Materials: Your essays, resume, application questions etc. did not help you stand out as a unique/must-have candidate.
- Timing: You may have applied too late in the admissions season (for example I first applied to LSE in late January so I was denied by mid-Feb. The second time I applied was in October and was admitted with a scholarship less than a month later).
- Oversubscribed: The major you applied to was oversubscribed (many many people applied) so while you had a great application, when push came to shove you didn’t make it through the final cut.
WHAT YOU CAN DO BETTER NEXT TIME
- Re-take your Standardized Test: If you take a year out (like a gap year) then you can retake the SAT. Even if you do marginally better you still show the school that you are trying (FYI – I took the SAT three times, the LSAT three times and the GRE twice…in each case I represented to the school that I was so keen to gain admissions to their school that I bothered to do the exam again and again, but there is a point of overkill and after 3 times its not worth it anymore (aka diminishing returns)).
- College Credit Courses: If you want to take a year out (not do community college) then take some college credit courses and if you do well you can submit those to the schools and that may help (specifically if your GPA was on the lower side).
- Get Admissions Guidance: I can’t tell you how many times I have worked with someone who was denied the year before because they applied on their own and were blind to so many issues that could have otherwise made their applications amazing. An admissions expert or at least someone very familiar with the admissions process and ready to give you their time, will help you find YOUR ideal story, make sure you properly surface your qualifications, and ensure you have a unique application to truly stand out.
- Start EARLY!: I can’t emphasize this enough. Even if you are applying for programs that do not have rolling admissions, you need to give yourself plenty of time to prepare your application materials. And for those programs that do have rolling admissions then your chances of admissions when you apply early are 2–3 times greater then if you wait until the last minute. Moreover, the earlier you apply the higher the chances of admissions (I received a lot funding when I applied early to Cambridge and Harvard).
- Diversify: Make sure you apply broadly to reach, attainable and safety schools so you can give yourself the highest chances of admissions.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TODAY
- Feedback: Find out from some of the schools why you got rejected. Not all schools will give you candid feedback but some will and this will help you better understand what to do and improve.
- For College Applicants – Community College: If you are in the U.S. I would definitely advise applying and attending a local community college that can feed directly into the one or more of your ideal universities. Here is a great article on how to maximize the community college to university transition: Tips for Transferring from Community College (U.S. News). Additionally this will give you guidance on why Community College to University route: Should I go to community college and then transfer to a university?