Can you get rejected by every college? Every once in a while I hear about a student who is either rejected by all the schools they applied to or accepted only to schools they can’t afford. This is almost always because they didn’t have a balanced college list that included at least 2-3 schools where they were likely to be accepted and that they could afford.

Important: if that thought scares you and you’re reading this while you still have a chance to apply to a range of schools, then whew! Aren’t you glad you read this in time? Check out our post on How to Create a Great College List. Pay special attention to the part on a balanced list, then research to find 2-3 schools where you have a very good chance of getting in.

But let’s say you didn’t do that and are not accepted anywhere. It happens. What to do if you’re rejected from every college you applied to? 

1. Be sad for a while.

This is the part we sometimes skip. But gosh, allowing ourselves to feel our feelings is really important in life. So give yourself a week to feel all the things. Or a few days. Talk to people who care about you and tell them how you feel. Once you’ve done that, remember that life is about more than getting into college. That these colleges’ decisions aren’t a judgment on your character or your worth as a human being. That life will go on. It will.

Then, consider these options:

2. Apply to schools that are still accepting applications. 

While many colleges send out their decisions by April, a number of schools still accept applications in April, May, and beyond. 

3. Take a gap year. 

Rather than taking a year off, think of it as a year on. Create your own “educational” experience, whatever that may look like for you. For resources and ideas, check out www.gapyearassociation.org. Their search feature allows you to search many programs and their planning guides for families. Once you’ve begun your gap year, you might find either a) you still want to go to college or b) you actually don’t (see #5 below)! 

4. Take community college classes.

Earn some college credits and save some money. Future employers don’t care as much about where you started as where you finished. And some don’t even care too much about the latter.

Heads-up: Be careful about reapplying the following year if you’ll need financial aid. Why? Universities will consider you a transfer even if you don’t want the credits, and aid is often much less available. Find out more from either your high school counselor or the transfer counselor at your local community college.

If none of these is feeling right…

5. Ask yourself: Is college right for me?   

Perhaps there are options you’ve not even considered yet. For ideas (and lots of perspective), check out Blake Boles’s book Better Than College: How to Build a Successful Life Without a Four-Year Degree