Admissions Is the Least Important Part of Your Student’s College Experience

By Karen Dentler, Author of Go to Class How to Succeed at College
  • As someone who worked with hundreds of college students over 20 years in higher education, I have been spending A LOT of time recently talking with friends, neighbors, and colleagues about college admissions. This admissions cycle was, according to my anecdotal evidence, particularly challenging and disappointing.

    Yet the admissions process is the least important part of your student’s college experience and future success.

    Yup. I said it, and I believe it.

    After you take a few days to absorb and react to the decisions, it is finally time for you and your student to take back control of the admission process. Your student does not need to make a decision immediately. Stop deciding. Instead, take action and gather information.

    1) Help your student learn more about the schools that offered your student admission. If possible, attend admitted students’ days. If you can’t go to those programs, visit schools on different days, and when you (or ideally your student) make the tour reservations, mention that the visitor is admitted for the fall. If you are unable to visit a school in person, reach out to the admissions office and ask if the school offers virtual events or if they can connect your student with recent alumni or current students. Also, of course, carefully review the financial aid packages and make sure you understand the cost of attending each school. If you have questions, contact the schools’ financial aid offices.

    2) Forget about the schools that rejected your student and help your kid do the same. Give away the sweatshirt, cry a bit, feel angry, and then LET IT GO.

    3) If your student is on a waitlist, try, as much as possible, to set aside the school for right now. Although, if your student recently won an award or has a new accomplishment, the student can send a letter to admissions. The student can also call the admission office to learn more about the waitlist format, policies, deadlines, and procedures for that particular school. While it is fine to occasionally daydream with your student about getting off the waitlist, your first priority should be researching schools that offered your student admission.

    4) In a few months, the entire admissions process will be in the rearview mirror. TBH, the important work starts when your student arrives on campus. Learning and growing can happen at every school, and students need support and guidance to thrive. My wish is that our society could take the energy and money that drive the admissions process and re-direct some of it to supporting students once they arrive on campus instead. Let’s change the narrative by talking about college instead of college admissions. Who is with me?

    About the Author

    Karen Dentler has over 20 years of experience in higher education. She has held positions in student life and academic administration at Rutgers University, Princeton University, and Carnegie Mellon University. Dentler has her MA in higher education from the University of Michigan and a BA in philosophy from Colgate University.

    Dentler is the author of Go to Class: How to Succeed at College, a gift book for college-bound students. Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram @collegegiftbook.

    Get a copy of Go to Class: How to Succeed at College online at

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