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    What to Do if You’re Rejected From Every College You Apply to 

    By Zach Skillings

    Zach Skillings is the Scholarships360 Newsletter Editor. He specializes in college admissions and strives to answer important questions about higher education. When he’s not contributing to Scholarships360, Zach writes about travel, music, film, and culture. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Ladygunn Magazine, The Nocturnal Times, and The Lexington Dispatch. Zach graduated from Elon University with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts.

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    Reviewed by Bill Jack

    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.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: February 6th, 2024
    What to Do if You’re Rejected From Every College You Apply to 

    Although it may feel like it, getting rejected from every college is not the end of the world. It’s a tough pill to swallow, for sure, but there’s no need to hit the panic button. Fortunately, you still have some great options. Read on to find out what steps you can take after being rejected from every college. We’ll also close with advice on how to avoid this scenario if you are still waiting to hear back.

    Related: Can I reapply to a college that rejected me? 

    1. Breathe… 

    You’re probably feeling pretty down right about now, but that’s okay! Rejection is tough for everyone, so take some time to acknowledge your emotions and let yourself feel them. Talk to your friends and family and lean on them for support. Once you’re ready, consider your options and look for positive ways to move forward. 

    2. Keep applying

    Just because you haven’t been accepted yet doesn’t mean it won’t happen! While most application deadlines occur during January or earlier, that’s not always the case. In fact, there are hundreds of colleges that accept applications through May, June, and even August. You may be sick of filling out applications by now, but remember there’s power in persistence. Just think – that acceptance letter is going to be so sweet when it finally arrives!

    Related: College waitlist: What students need to know

    3. Consider community college 

    They don’t get the same hype as four-year universities, but there’s a lot to like about community colleges. They have high acceptance rates, offer quality educational programs, and are much more affordable than traditional colleges. After two years at community college, you can earn an associate degree and launch your career faster than you would have at a four-year school. And don’t worry – there are lots of high-paying jobs you can get with an associate degree

    You always have the option of transferring to a four-year school, too. By doing well in your classes and establishing a solid GPA, you’ll have a better shot at admission than you did the first time around. So if your heart is still set on attending a four-year school, just think of community college as a slight detour. 

    Related: Starting at a community college

    4. Think about alternatives to college 

    Despite what you may have heard, college isn’t the only path to meaningful employment. There’s actually lots of options out there, some of which you may have not even considered yet. Check out the following options, or check out our full guide on college alternatives

    Coding bootcamps

    Coding bootcamps are short-term training programs designed for students seeking jobs in the tech industry. Graduates typically find work in web development, software development, information security, or information technology. The great thing about these bootcamps is that you can complete them in four months or less, and you can choose to take them online or in-person. Not to mention, they’re much more affordable than bachelor’s degree programs. According to Course Report, coding bootcamps cost an average of $13,584. Considering the average starting salary of bootcamp grads is $66,964, that’s a pretty good return on investment. 

    Coding bootcamps hold an additional benefit in their flexible payment plans and the wide variety of scholarships available. Additionally, many of them have no prerequisite of coding experience. If you feel as though you are stuck in a tough spot financially and don’t have much experience to lean on for a job, they are a great option to change your situation.

    Related: Are coding bootcamps worth it? 

    Trade school 

    Also known as career or technical schools, trade schools are designed to provide students with the technical skills needed for specific occupations. Popular fields of work include carpentry, automotive maintenance, HVAC, information technology, nursing, cosmetology, and electrical work. Similar to community college, trade school programs are relatively affordable and can usually be completed in two years or less. 

    Related: Trade school: everything you need to know 

    Online classes

    These days, there’s tons of online courses that can help you build professional skills and get a leg up in the job market. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), for example, are free online classes available for anyone to enroll. You can take courses in just about any subject, with topics ranging from marketing and engineering to computer programming and creative arts. Another option is to enroll in one of Google’s career certificate programs. These online courses are designed to train learners for entry-level jobs in fields like IT support, data analytics, project management, and UX design. They require 10 hours of study a week, can be completed in six months, and cost only $39 a month through a website called Coursera

    Also see: Top scholarships for online students


    Apprenticeships are paid, full-time career training programs that teach skills through a combination of on-the-job experience and classroom instruction. They’re typically geared toward skilled trade occupations such as carpentry, electrical engineering, plumbing, tractor-trailer driving, masonry, and construction labor. Depending on the specific program, apprenticeships can last anywhere from one to six years. Apprenticeships are great for high school graduates looking to train for a career while earning money at the same time. The only problem is that they can be difficult to find since there’s relatively few available and the competition is steep. But if you’d like to explore this route, is a good place to start. 

    5. Keep your head up! 

    Ultimately, you can’t let those rejection letters define you. Being rejected from every college you apply to doesn’t reflect on you as a person, and you still have the potential to get a great education. We all face challenges in life, but the key is how we respond to them. Weigh your options, stay positive, and trust that everything will work out okay in the end! 

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    How to ensure admission to at least one school

    If you’re reading this article because you’re worried that you’ll be rejected from every college you applied to, but haven’t heard back yet, don’t sweat it. Although the application process is nerve-wrecking, most students gain admission to at least one college they apply to. There are also some ways to help increase your chances of gaining admission to at least one place.

    One of the best ways to ensure that you gain admission to at least one college is to apply to an appropriate number of colleges. Another way to ensure that you have a school to attend in the fall is to find a good mix of safety, match, and reach schools. And if the deadline for most applications has already passed, you can look for schools with late or rolling application deadlines. Check out our tips for successful college applications in order to bolster your chances of admissions at these other schools. Good luck with everything and remember, you can always improve your situation!

    Next Steps

    Next Steps

    • If you did not gain admission to any schools during regular decision, you can apply to schools with a late application deadline
    • You can also consider attending community college for the semester and transferring into a four-year university
    • College alternatives such as trade school, coding bootcamps, apprenticeships, and online courses can lead you to high-paying careers without a four-year education

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