Friday, July 19College Admissions News

Can You Reapply to a College After Getting Rejected?


You’ve been denied admission to your dream college, but is there still hope? Can you reapply to a college after getting rejected? The short answer is, yes! You can reapply to the vast majority of colleges; however, it’s often not your best option. In this article, we walk you through what your choices are and how you can make the right one for you.


Can You Reapply to a College After Getting Rejected?

If you aren’t accepted by a college the first time, can you wait a year and reapply? Technically, yes. Almost every college will allow you to apply again as long as you still meet the basic requirements for applying as a freshman applicant. Generally, this means you’ve graduated from high school but haven’t enrolled in college classes beyond AP classes or community college classes taken while you were in high school. Some colleges still allow you to apply as a freshman applicant even if you’ve taken one or two semesters of college classes, but they’re in the minority, so be aware that enrolling in college classes after you graduate from high school can prevent you from reapplying as a freshman applicant.

The only time you can’t reapply as a freshman applicant is if you try to apply again in the same admissions timeframe as your first application. (For example, if you were rejected Early Action/Early Decision, you can’t reapply Regular Decision for that same admissions cycle.)

So, if you get rejected from a school and decide to take a gap year, you can apply again as a freshman applicant the next year. However, this may not be your best option. We’ll explain why in the next section.


What Are the Chances You’ll Get Accepted on a Second Try?

It’s possible to reapply to a college after getting rejected, but that doesn’t mean you should do it. Why not? To start, the odds of getting accepted your second time around are pretty low. Despite how random some admissions decisions can seem to students, most colleges have a finely-honed process for making admissions decisions, and it’s unlikely your application will get you accepted when it didn’t the first time.

To get accepted after previously being rejected, you’d likely need to significantly strengthen your application, and this can be difficult to do. Your high school grades and class rank have already been set, and you might not be able to get new letters of recommendation if you aren’t in contact with your high school teachers anymore. 

In terms of what you can change, you can revamp your personal statement and try to get higher SAT or ACT scores (or submit test scores if you didn’t the first time you applied). However, how you spend the year between your applications will likely be your best shot at increasing your chance of getting accepted. It’s possible to have a very impressive gap year–starting a business, getting involved in your community, volunteering, etc., but it’ll be a lot of work and can take a lot of money as well. 

And even if you knock your new application out of the park, there’s no guarantee you’ll be admitted the second time. Unless you were deferred or waitlisted the first time you applied, you won’t know if you were close to being accepted or not, so even a very impressive gap year may not be enough to tip the scale. And if you get rejected a second time, then you might feel as though you wasted a year.

It’s very difficult to find statistics for how many students get accepted to a school after being rejected as most colleges don’t publish that data. In general, the best answer we can give is that students can and have gotten accepted to a school that initially rejected them, but they’re likely in the minority. Many colleges keep records of past applicants, at least for a year or two, and some will ask outright on the application if you’ve applied to them before. (Don’t lie on this question; it’s too easy for them to check!) 




3 Alternatives to Reapplying

So if reapplying to college as a freshman applicant again isn’t often the best choice, what is? Below are three alternatives, each of which will likely have a higher chance of success than reapplying as a freshman applicant.


#1: Transferring After Freshman Year

If you’re tempted to reapply to a college as a freshman applicant again, we highly recommend considering attending a different college for a year or two, then applying to your dream school as a transfer student. It’s very common to transfer colleges, with about a third of undergraduate students transferring to a new school at some point. If you weren’t admitted to your top school the first time you applied, attending a different school for a year or two then applying as a transfer student is a great option. 

Are your chances of being admitted as a transfer student higher than if you reapplied as a freshman applicant? It highly depends on the school. Check out the chart below for the transfer and freshman acceptance rates for a variety of schools.



As you can see in the chart, some colleges, like the University of Michigan, have a significantly higher transfer acceptance rate than freshman acceptance rate. This is often true of large public schools. 

One group of schools that has very low transfer acceptance rates is Ivy League schools and other highly-competitive schools, like Williams College. Harvard’s freshman acceptance rate is an already very low 3.2%, but its transfer acceptance rate is just 0.8%! This is true across all Ivy League schools, so if you’re banking on getting admitted to one of them as a transfer student, make sure you understand your odds. 

One of the upsides to applying as a transfer student is that if there were aspects of your freshman application you were unhappy with, such as your high school grades or extracurriculars, strong grades your first few semesters of college can be enough to make up for them and get you accepted as a transfer because schools will always be most interested in your most recent grades and classes.


#2: Attending the School for Grad School

Another option people often don’t consider is attending your dream school, but for grad school! Of course, this requires you to both want to attend grad school and for the school to offer the grad program that you’re interested in, but if it works out, this is a great opportunity for another shot at attending your dream school.


#3: Choose Another School That Accepted You

When you first receive a rejection from your #1 school, you might be too disappointed to even consider other colleges that accepted you. However, give yourself a little time, then review your options again. Were there colleges that you did get into? What did you like about them? They likely had something missing if they weren’t your top school, but what was it? If it’s something that’s critical to your success in college, like a certain major or research opportunity, then they probably aren’t the best choice for you. But if your reasons for making your top schools #1 are more intangible, such as the atmosphere on campus or the types of students who go there, know that you can probably find what you’re looking for at many other colleges. 

While the college admissions process can be stressful, especially if you have a clear favorite school, most students, even those who don’t get accepted to their top school, end up happy at the college they do decide to attend. So keep an open mind as you review your other options, and consider if attending a different school is actually the best choice.




3 Tips for Getting Accepted After an Initial Rejection

If you decide to take a gap year and reapply to a college in the next admissions round, follow the three tips below to give yourself the best chance of getting admitted when reapplying to college.


#1: Talk to the Admissions Team

One of your first steps should be to contact the admissions team of the school you want to reapply to. They won’t be able to answer questions about your application specifically, such as how close you were to getting admitted or how you can improve your chances of getting in, but they may be able to give general advice as to whether reapplying is successful for many applicants, or if they think another option, like applying as a transfer student, would be better.


#2: Make a Plan for Creating a Stronger Application

If you’re going to reapply to a school, you need to apply with a stronger application to have a real shot at getting admitted the second time around. How are you going to do it? Raise your SAT/ACT scores? Write a stronger personal statement? Do something really impressive with your gap year? Go through each part of your application, and for every part that you can still improve, think of ways to make it as strong as possible.


#3: Have a Backup Plan

It’s never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket, so, if you do decide to pursue reapplying to college, make sure it’s not your only option next year. Apply to other schools, including safety schools you have a chance of getting accepted by. That way, you’re keeping your options open and giving yourself the best shot at ending up at a school you’ll be happy at next year.

Summary: Can You Reapply to a College After Rejection?

Can you apply to a college again after being rejected? Yes, you can choose to take a gap year and apply again as a freshman applicant for the next admissions cycle. However, unless you’re able to substantially improve your application, it’s likely the admissions team will make the same decision they made the first time.

It’s possible to get admitted on a second attempt, and students have done it, but be aware that the odds are generally not in your favor. Other options to consider include attending a different school for a year or two and then applying as a transfer student, applying to the school for grad school, or looking again at the schools that did accept you and deciding if one of them is close enough to what you want that you’d be happy to be a student there.


What’s Next?

Interested in making your college application as strong as it can be? Check out PrepScholar’s admission consulting services and learn the ways we can help.

For a complete overview of the college search process, read our comprehensive guide on how to choose a college.

If you’re looking for an example of what you need to do to get into the best colleges, check out this successful Harvard application.


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