How to Handle Rejection from ED or EA Applications

With most early admission programs, you can expect three possible decision outcomes: admitted, deferred and denied. In this post, we will focus on what to do if you find yourself in the last group.

Receiving the dreadful rejection letter from a college admissions office is never easy. The stinging disappointment could have you relentlessly wondering what else you could’ve done to strengthen your application or even worse, make you lose confidence in your candidacy for admission at any other college altogether. After spending several years working as an Admissions Officer, I can confidently say that the college admissions process is an incredibly “human” process and that there could be many factors (many that none of us can control) that could contribute to the disappointing “deny” decision. Drawing on my previous admissions professional experience and my own personal experience as a college applicant, I have three tips to help you regroup and overcome the sting of early admission rejection.

Tips to help you regroup after receiving a deny decision

  1. Come to terms with the decision/ Check if appeals are offered. It’s OK to sit down and take some time to acknowledge the decision. Realize that it is normal to feel disappointed; accepting rather than ignoring the outcome tends to help you move on more quickly.

While limited, there are some institutions that offer an appeals process. Do your research and confirm whether the institution to which you applied offers it. If so, follow the steps careful and/or contact the admissions office for further clarification.

  1. Expand your options and know that another institution could be a good fit. Make a list of all the things that drew you to your dream school. Often I find it helpful for students to separate this list into the following categories: “non-negotiable aspects”, “nice to have”, “negotiable aspects.” Once you have created your list, use it as a guide when selecting other colleges. Keep an open mind. If you do not fall into the trap of comparing other schools to your dream one, your chances of finding a new favorite will be greater.

  2. Strengthen your narrative. Because you already submitted an application, you already have great material to work with. Hopefully you’ll have the time to sit down and review your previously submitted application. Ask yourself if there were any areas in which you could improve. Could you offer clarification for something you didn’t realize explain in detail? Is your authentic voice coming through in your essays? Make a plan to address these questions.


Remember: keep a positive attitude throughout this process. Above all, don’t give up and soon, you’ll find a school that’s the right fit for you.

Karen Alonzo is a proud alumna of Stanford University where she worked as an Assistant Director of Admissions for four years. At Stanford, she coordinated the renowned Exploring College Options admissions presentations with Harvard, UPenn, Duke and Georgetown and was involved in co-leading the transfer admission process. Graduating with a BA in Science, Technology and Society, she also worked at Google where she specifically focused on partner marketing and brand strategy. She brings her extensive knowledge of selective college admissions and financial aid to Strategic Admissions Advice as our new Senior College Coach.

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