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What to Do After Receiving the College Acceptance Letter

by sandyadviser
02/23/15 Bookmark

Sandy Jimenez has been a College Access Counselor at the Options Center at Goddard Riverside Community Center since 2000. In 2006, she helped design the first iteration of the Options Institute’s Foundation Course for College Access and Success Counselors. She has worked individually with over 500 students and trained thousands of professionals. Most recently, Sandy has joined NYC College Line as a Senior Adviser, where you can reach her through the Ask an Adviser feature. 


‘Tis the season! Your students are hearing back from colleges. If your students applied to a reasonable list of colleges, they should be hearing some acceptances (Yay!) and some denials too (Boo!). As the “Facts of Life” theme song tells us: “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life.” Such is life.

Access Denied

This weekend I got an email from a student who was rejected from her top choice school. She had taken a chance applying there; her GPA was at least 15 points below the score range and her SAT was several hundred points below. It was a far reach. But she really loved the state school, which focused on her major. Fast forward: she heard last week that she hadn’t been accepted. In her email, she basically asked if there was anything she could do.

If she’d had a compelling case—if her grades were closer to the range, if she was opportunity program eligible, if she had a strong resume—we might have appealed the decision. This is where strong relationships with admissions counselors can come in handy. Even better: placing a preemptive call before decisions are made.

For this student, I don’t think that school was a great fit. As an alternative, I am re-suggesting an application to a community college nearby to the college that turned her down. This way, she can possibly transfer later on. I hope she’s open. Another possibility: I put in a recommendation with a connection at an opportunity program at a better-fit school. She will have at least one good option, if I can help it.

You’re in!

It’s awesome to watch your students rack up the acceptance letters. It’s happy times. It also means more work for advisors. Here are some ways you can use all that positive energy:

  1. Celebrate good times!

Rejoice in all of your students” successes. They deserve to be celebrated, as do you. You’re starting to see the fruits of your labor. There are many ways to celebrate. You can announce acceptances over the loudspeaker or design a colorful bulletin board. Last year at Options, we had a bulletin board where students and their proud counselors could tack their redacted acceptance letters. It was low-energy and colorful because we copied the acceptance letters on colorful paper!

2.  Motivate others

This one’s a freebie. All the work you do to celebrate your students will also motivate your other students (juniors and seniors who need a little push). Once they see others being celebrated, they’ll want to be celebrated too! One bold counselor had a chart on her bulletin board with all her seniors’ names. Every time one got into a college she would list it on the chart. This way, students with no college listed next to their name would feel the push to up their game.

 3.  Look at the WHOLE picture

It’s so cool that your student got into that great college! Now they need to slow their roll! Students cannot decide on where to go until they have fully evaluated all of their financial aid packages. A workshop on this topic could be quite timely.

Once all packages have been received, students, counselors, and families, can decide which college is the best fit. Once the decision is reached, a student must usually pay a deposit, accept their financial aid package, sign a master promissory note if they’re taking a loan, and attend an orientation. There is a lot to do!

4.  Keep in touch

While they’re collecting college responses, it’s important for students to be in communication with colleges that they’ve heard and haven’t heard from. They can call every so often, to make sure the college has received all of the needed documents. Delays in admission notices and financial aid packages can often mean missing information.

At the same time, students must respond in a timely fashion to requests for information. The late winter and early spring are important times for this type of exchange. Opportunity programs, admissions offices, and financial aid offices are constantly communicating with students. Students who miss priority deadlines, may miss their chance at admission or a decent financial aid package.

 5.  Keep track

Whether you use a simple spreadsheet or a fancy database, it’s important to keep track of your students’ acceptances and rejections. It will give context to your college lists for the next year.  If your team consists of more than just you, sharing news of acceptances mean deeper knowledge for everyone..

What do counselors do?

Last week, a new counselor asked me what it is that counselors do. She said they make sure students get in somewhere and that they can pay for it. That is oversimplifying it, isn’t it? There’s a lot of work that goes into the work that we do, even when it seems we’re in the final stretch.

Years ago, just getting students into college seemed enough. Now we know we need to set our students up for success through to graduation. We can’t stop at celebrating. There is much work to do!

What are some of your traditions for acceptance season?


  • amybeth

    Great post Sandy.
    When I worked at an after school program, we would make a BIG announcement when the student had been accepted to a school and give him/her a round of applauds. At first the students would get a little embarrassed, but quickly they would smile, and be very proud. We all shared in the celebratory moment.

  • sandyadviser

    I bet that was awesome-- everyone likes to be celebrated. Thanks for your comment, Amy!

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