Global Undergraduate Applications • Undergraduate

Undergraduate Application Outcomes: What They Are and How to Respond?

POSTED ON 12/08/2023 BY The Red Pen

Undergraduate student thinking about deadlines

After the frenzy of putting together and sending applications to institutions on your university list, waiting for their responses can feel like an eternity. However, not every college admission story ends with acceptance or rejection. You may also face grey areas like waitlisting and deferrals. But what do these responses mean, and what should you do once you receive them? This blog post will show you how to navigate the different responses you may get from your college applications. 

What responses can I expect to my college application?

1) Accepted: 

Congratulations! If a college sends you an acceptance letter, you have secured admission, and the institution is happy to reserve a place for you. But your choices will depend on the deadlines you selected for submitting your application. If you are a Regular Decision (RD) or an Early Action (EA) applicant, the acceptance is not binding, and you may decline the offer if you have another more suitable one. But as an Early Decision (ED) applicant, you must attend the college that has admitted you.

2) Declined or Unsuccessful:  

Sometimes, colleges will decline admissions. Regardless of whether you applied EA, ED or RD, you cannot attend the university that denies your application. Additionally, if your ED application is unsuccessful, you cannot reapply to the same university during the admissions cycle, even in the RD round. 

3) Waitlisted: 

If you are on the waitlist, it means that while the university cannot accept you, they will consider your application if a position opens up. If you’re on a college’s waitlist, you must wait for a vacancy created by a student who matches your academic interests and demographic profile. For example, suppose you’ve demonstrated interest in science for a specific college and are waitlisted. To be considered, you must wait for a student with demographics similar to yours who is interested in science to decline their offer of admission. Often, waitlist notifications come with an “opt-in” selection process so the college knows you are still interested in attending the university. Don’t forget to complete this. 

4) Deferred: 

If you applied early, there is a possibility of receiving a deferral. It means that the college cannot presently admit you but is willing to review your application in the RD round. Deferrals occur because universities aim to build a well-rounded first-year class and want to see how you compare with students applying RD. 

How to choose the right college after receiving multiple applications?

May 1 is decision day, meaning you must choose a college among your acceptances by the end of April. Some applicants instinctively know which college to attend, while others struggle to discern the differences between colleges and need help sorting out priorities. If you’re among the latter, here’s how you can make a systematic comparison.

1) Establish what is important to you: 

Think of this as establishing a rubric; no factor is too trivial. After all, this is where you will spend the next four years. Therefore, the college environment must be conducive to your growth—inside and outside the classroom. Create a grid that includes specific variables that are relevant to you. You can include your major, minors, location, study abroad options, student population size and work placement opportunities.

2) Check the curriculum in your area of study: 

While comparing courses across colleges, remember to check the curriculum in your major, as it may differ from college to college. For example, the economics department at one college might offer different tracks or specialisations that may appeal to you, while the economics course of another college may not. Additionally, the degree you hope to pursue can affect the credits you are required to earn. For example, a BSc in economics may require more credit hours for the major than a BA in economics.

3) Check general education requirements and transfer credits

You should also compare each college’s “general education” or distribution requirements. While most colleges in the US will have a liberal arts component in their curriculum, the exact general education requirements will vary. If you want more focus on your intended major and less breadth in the curriculum, fewer general education requirements might be a better fit. Also, if you have completed or taken AP, IB or A Level courses, you might be able to waive some of the general education or even the major’s freshman requirements with transferable credit.

4) Check opportunities within and beyond the classroom: 

Looking at academic opportunities, such as independent research, co-op programmes, and internships, will allow you to explore a subject more deeply. A deciding factor for you could be the number of research opportunities available at the undergraduate level. To know this, look at the initiatives, like research symposiums or senior thesis presentations that support undergraduates. Academic communities are also an important factor. It is also worth exploring student-led organisations and honour societies on campus that relate to your interests and hobbies. 

What to do if I’m on the waitlist?   

Don’t panic or give up. Read our blog on six strategies to get off the waitlist. After that, pick one school that you would absolutely attend if taken off the waitlist. Once you have your heart set on a college, here are a few things that may help you: 

1) Respond with a Letter of Continued Interest

Writing a Letter of Continued Interest (LOCI) will make a difference if you’ve been put on the waitlist. An LOCI is an email to the admissions committee to let them know you’re still interested in attending the college. You can also request your school counsellor to write to the university and state that you will commit to attending if granted admission. In the waitlist notification, colleges often provide instructions. They may invite you to update your application with a LOCI, where you can highlight new awards, extracurriculars and community involvements. Or, they may ask you to send additional material, such as updated transcripts. Respond promptly and send them the information to tip the scales in your favour. 

2) Ask questions

If there are no instructions from the college, email and express your interest to the relevant person in the admissions office. Ask what you can do to get off the waitlist. They don’t always respond with actionable steps, but if they do, follow instructions. If they don’t respond or do so sparingly, do not over-communicate.  Admissions officers are very busy during this time, and you don’t want them to remember you as someone who has no patience and wrote them five emails in a row.

3) Secure an additional letter of recommendation

A letter of recommendation or a word in the ear of an admissions officer by your school counsellor or principal might help at this point.  

4) Make it clear that you will attend if admitted

When a space opens, the admissions office seeks to fill it with candidates they know are likely to accept the offer and enrol. They do not want to waste their time on someone uncertain about joining. So, communicate your commitment to attend clearly and repeatedly. If you are not committed, remove yourself from the waitlist and continue with other offers.

What to do if I’m deferred? 

Getting deferred from your top choice school is disappointing, but don’t despair! Read our blog on what to do if you’re deferred. You should also continue to apply to your regular decision colleges. In the meantime, you can always send an LOCI to remind the admissions office that they are your first choice and reiterate why you might be a good fit for the school. Be specific: mention the programs that matter most to you, sports or activities you want to get involved in, and even mention faculty whose classes you’re excited to take. 

But regardless of the outcome, US college applications take considerable effort and organisation. You may read our guide to undergraduate courses in the US and the nuances of applying to US universities. If you need any assistance with your application or guidance on what to do once you receive responses to your application, please get in touch. Our undergraduate team looks forward to hearing from you.