Back to Podcast Index →

Rejected? Accepted? Waitlisted?

How to Respond to Admissions' Decisions.

| “College admissions officers are not trying to figure out who the most qualified applicants are. Their goal is to select great young people for a very specific 4-year experience. This is very different from saying, “Who is the best, or who is the most worthy.”

College decisions eventually get back to the applicants. When you hear back from your dream schools,  it will be a day of powerful emotions.

You will be either accepted, rejected, or waitlisted. So how should you respond to each of those final decisions?


  • Why you should start preparing for your decision day moment today
  • How to respond to any of the 3 final decision scenarios 
  • What you should do if you get admitted into a school that feels out of your league
  • A powerful 3-word response if your application is rejected
  • One perspective that will help prepare for your decision letters, starting right now

     And so much more.


Ready to take the Ivy League Challenge?

Take the Challenge today!


Too many people are overwhelmed, stressed out, and frustrated about college admissions prep. I created this podcast to help you build a standout college profile and boost your confidence. Enjoy!

– Steve Gardner, Founder

Listen to my podcast

Listen to other podcasts 

Success Mindset

The right mindset can ensure your success. Listen to begin building your own winning mindset now. 

Start listening

Build Your Confidence 

When everyone else is trying to fit in or go with the flow, learn how you can develop the confidence you need to blaze your own successful path. 

Start listening

Reduce Stress & Anxiety 

Stories, research, real-life examples... Listen to learn how my Harvard peers and I faced stress and overwhelm. 

Start listening

How to Stand Out 

Hard work and great test scores are not enough- but what kind of admissions prep activities will help you get in? It's not what you think... 

Start listening

Admissions Strategy 

Essays, rec. letters, curriculum choices, college visits, research, test scores, and more. Don't wear yourself out with a bad strategy.  

Start listening

Succeed In High School 

The best college prep will ensure you thrive in middle school & high school. Don't settle for stressful, unhelpful college prep advice. 

Start listening

Would you like to be notified when new episodes are launched in your favorite category?

Yes, sign me up


Welcome back to season two of Ivy League Prep. Academy podcast equips you to successfully pursue the college of your dreams. We believe everyone deserves to reach their full potential, and the admissions process shouldn't hold you back. Every year, every single one of the eight ivy league colleges announced their admissions decisions on the same day. Now, because these last two years, there have been so many applications to ivy league schools. The specific date for 2022 has not yet been announced, but every year it's on or about march 31st. And on that day. At the exact same time, either 5:00 pm or 7:00 pm eastern, usually, every single one of the applicants to every single one of the eight ivy league schools can log in and find out the final decision. It is a day that is filled with apprehension, anxiety, with excitement.

Once decisions come out, it is filled with joy and jubilation, disappointment and discouragement and frustration. And that day is truly one of the most emotion-packed days of the year every single year. My phone blew up on that day as students who worked with me shared their news. And all I can say is it is a day packed with emotion. But it's kind of strange, right? That I'm recording this and posting this podcast months before that day actually arrives this year. The reason I want to do that is that I believe that the correct approach, the way that you should respond to the answer that you get from your dream universities, is something that you should be preparing ahead of time.

So today, I just want to talk a little bit about what college admissions decisions mean for you personally and how you should respond to the three different scenarios. Either you're rejected, which is what happens to 95 or 96, sometimes 97 % of the applicants, or you're accepted, which happens to about 5 % of those applicants, sometimes a little less, depending on the school. Or if you are weight listed, which is an awkward position to be in because, as we'll discuss in just a few minutes, there is no closure yet. You don't know what the decision is.

As I have talked about over and over and over again on this podcast in my Facebook community on Instagram. I've talked about a lot the fact that college admissions officers they're not even pretending to figure out who the smartest or the most qualified applicants are. I have a direct quote from a yale admissions officer that supports what I've been saying. This is great. She said our goal is to select great young people for a very specific Fourier experience, which is very different from saying who is the best or who is the most worthy in my conversations with admissions officers at lots of top universities. That perspective is consistent. That is absolutely the perspective.

So this decision, whether you're admitted or is not an indication of who is most qualified, who is smartest, of who is most hardworking, which I think is really important, because if you do get admitted, you feel like, wait, I'm not smart enough. I don't belong there. I think it's important that you realize that the people who selected you for a reason; could have been that they noticed how thoughtful you are or how curious you are, or how kind you are. It could have been that something about the letters of recommendation really stood out, and they felt like you'd be someone that would glue the community together or would really help in some other way that you haven't considered. But you've been chosen because something about you is special.

And so if you've been admitted to a school that you thought was out of your league, I think it's really important to step back and just feel grateful. Just have a sense of curiosity, a sense of awe, a sense of wonder about what the admissions officers might have seen in you. And to trust that these people are professionals, they've gone through thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of applications over the years. And they know what they're doing, and they saw something special in you. This is one more quote from a yale admissions officer, a different one who said getting admitted does not mean you are smarter or worked harder than anyone else. Trust me. Many people who are smarter than you and work harder than you got denied. You are admitted because we believe you will play an important role at yale. And as I say, you can hopefully imagine why the other side of that coin is also relevant, just because you weren't admitted to your dream school, whether it's yale or Harvard or Stanford, or whatever it may be. That doesn't mean that you're not smart enough, that you're not capable enough, that you're not hardworking enough. It doesn't mean any of those things.

In fact, I have spoken with a number of admissions officers from these schools who talk about how much it pains them. It breaks their hearts that they cannot admit it. Probably you and people just like you. They see applicants who would shine on their campuses and just the reality of how selective these different universities are. This means that many thousands of candidates would do just great. The vast majority of candidates who are rejected from these schools would do really well at these schools. But because there are only so many spots, many people who would do very well, who deserve to be there, and who would excel are not granted admission.

With that, I'd like to move towards how you should respond when you get one of these three different options, whether you're rejected, the most common admitted, or whether you're put on the weight list because I don't want this podcast to be another deep dive into what helps you to stand out. If you want to hear all about that, I've got lots of podcasts and my entire online program. The ivy league challenge is all about helping you become the kind of thoughtful and curious, and impact-driven superstar that these colleges recruit, that they really, really want on their campuses.

So check out my other podcasts or the ivy league challenge for further information there. Let's go ahead and talk about what you should do when you're admitted or when you're not when that decision comes. We'll start with the rejection since most people who apply are rejected, greater than 90 %. First of all, it's okay to be angry. It's okay to be upset. It's okay to be frustrated. You have probably put your heart and soul into your application. You probably worked for years to do things that other students weren't willing to do because you thought it might give you a leg up and it might give you an opportunity to attend one of these amazing schools. You've worked harder than people around you, and you really wanted it.

And then, when it was time to apply, you decided to go all in, and you were open and authentic, and you poured out your soul, and you shared personal details about who you are and what you think makes you special. And then, when you rejected, how could you not take it personally? And so I want you to understand it is going to hurt, and it's okay that it hurts. It's okay that you've been through something. I don't know that there's a better way to say this, but I want to give some perspective from the first time in my life that my heart was broken.

When I had my first true heartbreak when someone broke up with me, someone that I loved and thought would marry, my older brother said, I know you can't understand it now. But at some point in the future, you will look back at this, and you'll be glad that it didn't work out. And I I truly am, and I have been for a long time; his advice proved to be correct. I want you to have that exact same perspective. You don't know yet why. But at some point, you're going to look back, and you're going to be glad that things worked out the way that they did.

Now, one perspective that will help you that you can begin adopting right now, months before the decision comes out, is the perspective that I emphasize over and over and over again in the ivy league challenge. And that your success throughout the rest of your life does not hinge on your ability to get into your dream. School, lots of high school students, place so much value on the college that they attend. With good reason, I attended an ivy league school, I attended Harvard, and it was amazing. I really, really, really encourage people who have ambitions to go for it. And at the same time, as you're preparing to apply to Harvard or to whatever your dream school is, you should not take the approach that being admitted to Harvard or your dream school is the key to your success. Instead, choose to do the things.

Now, while you're in middle school, while you're in high school, what do you think you will do after you're qualified, that you think you will do after you've had your Harvard education? What kind of impact would you make in the world once you're qualified? And instead of waiting, instead of deciding that right now, it's your time to prepare for high school. And then, when you're in high school, it's time to prepare for college. That perspective, that pattern of constantly living in this state, where you're preparing for the future, where you're preparing to live your life at some other day, some other time. That perspective is not going to get you into Harvard. Harvard and these other schools are not interested in students that have the potential to be amazing. They're looking for students who are already doing amazing things and who are already unusually thoughtful and unusually curious because they already have been exploring their core values and living authentically; even though they're really young, these are the people who are not waiting until after they graduate to make their impact.

These are students who have begun impacting their community for the better already. And if you prepare that way, and you don't believe that your success is dependent on admission to your dream school, then you're not going to be nearly as brokenhearted if you're not admitted. And you're also going to be much more likely to be admitted.

So how do you respond to rejection? The best way to respond is with the words, your loss because whatever school I'm going to attend will be lucky to have me. The school I choose to attend will be lucky to have me. I'm going to make an impact. I'm going to improve that community. And when I graduate, I'm going to continue to be successful and bring back fame and glory and whatever else to this university. Too bad. Not you, I would have chosen you, but you didn't choose me; your loss. That's the only approach healthy approach to this bitter and really painful decision of rejection. What about option number two? If you are admitted to your dream school? I've already talked about how you should not think that because you're not as smart as other people, you don't deserve to go.

In fact, something about you stood out. It doesn't matter that you aren't as smart as you wish you were and that you're not as brilliant or perfect or hardworking or whatever else. As you wish you were. Something about you is special, and you deserve to be there. So if that's your dream school, go with full confidence. But now that you've gotten your decision and it's time to celebrate, call the people, friends, and family and call everyone that has played a role in this your college counselor, your teachers who left letters of recommendation, even the ones who didn't people who have impacted you along the way, call them with sincere gratitude and thank them for their support. They have played a role in helping you get where you are today.

So congratulations. Don't doubt yourself. You're in, and you rocked its way to go. Number three behind door number three is the awkward door. What if your weight is listed? You weren't accepted. You weren't rejected. You're just kind of caught in no man's land. And how awkward and almost frustrating can that be? It is really important that you understand something. And I'm going to share advice based on direct conversations and direct quotes from admissions officers at these top-tier universities. The advice that I have seen out there in the blog and on sub edits, et cetera, about what to do when you're weight listed is just wrong. It's bad advice, at least if you are applying to these top-tier universities. If you are weight listed, the university admissions committee wants to admit you. They wish they could admit you. They really want to admit you. There is nothing you can or should do to bolster your application. You don't need to update your resume to show that you've continued to do well. You don't need to submit new letters of recommendation. You don't need to call the admissions office and do anything of that sort. If you want to just feel good about yourself, you can send an email that says, if I'm admitted, I'm going to accept or something like that, but nothing more.

There is no reason to, in fact, weight list students from that university are the lowest priority for admissions officers at that time. Those admissions officers, after decisions are made, are doing their best to figure out how many of the students who are admitted are actually going to attend. That's called their yield. So until they know what their yield is, they don't know which students to pull off of the weight list anyway. But in the meantime, it's a lot of work to reach out to those people who are admitted and give them all the support that they need to make the decision about where they want to go. So these admissions officers are doing their best to write personalized letters, and they're talking to admitted students to help them decide that their university will be the best choice. The last thing that they want to do is be bombarded by their weightless candidates.

Instead, Treat the weight list as a rejection. I hate to say it, but it's the honest truth. You don't need to update anything. The only thing you can do is wait. The reason you are put on a weight list is that the admissions committee is trying to put together a rich, diverse freshman class that they think is going to support each other and succeed together over the course of 4 years at that school. They have picked this diverse class based on character traits based on all kinds of different layers of diversity. And they have picked you as well because they think that you would feel that kind of role on campus. If the people that were admitted who kind of feel the same role that you would fill end up going to a different school instead, then you may be contacted and told that you're invited that you're admitted.

And then you would be admitted, but it's not because you are missing something in your application that it wasn't quite good enough. It might be equally good. But for whatever reason, they chose someone else instead, and they're not going to change their decision because they updated your resume. All you can do is wait. And because all you can do is wait, my advice to you is to consider it a rejection. Remember, they won't even know the college admissions committee will not even know what their yield is until after decision day, until May 1st or May 3rd. But whatever day that is in early May, until they find out which students decided to attend their school, these admissions officers cannot know which students to invite off the weight list. By then, think about it. You have already passed the decision in the daytime. So instead, consider your second choice or the Top choice that admitted you consider your new school and find reasons to be grateful and excited to attend that school if something happens and you end up getting off the weight list and going to your original number one, wonderful.

But if not, just start researching the new school and learn about all the amazing things that that school has to offer. Because just like we talked about before, that school is going to be lucky to have you; you be the person that it just doesn't matter where you go, you're going to be successful, you go and be, you do the things that only you can do, you be your best self and consider the school that you choose to attend, just absolutely lucky that they will have you.

I want to leave you with one last thought. This time from the Dean of admissions or former Dean of admissions at Yale, just Jeff Branzel, said almost nothing depends on exactly which college admits you. Everything depends on what you decide to do. Once you get to college, I would add that it depends on what you decide to do before you even apply to college. So the decisions you're making right now they're going to have an impact on your lifetime of success. And if you can start to see yourself from that perspective, that I'm making decisions for me because I'm the kind of person who wants to be the best that I can be.

I want to make an impact in my community. I want to help others around me to be happier and stronger, and better. I'm going to do what I can to make that a reality. I also have ambitions along the way, and some of those ambitions are around college admissions and where I want to attend university. But those are just stepping stones on the path. I have an entire life ahead of me. College is just a part of that. And whichever college I go to will be lucky to have me; if my dream school sends a rejection, then it is their loss. I'm sorry, they didn't see what they needed to for them to be convinced that I was the right fit for the group of students that they put together.

But maybe they were right. And maybe I'm going to have an even better experience at this other school that I wasn't dreaming about. Then I would have had at the school that I was dreaming about. Either way, I'm going to be me. And if my dream school didn't admit me, it was their loss. And the school that admitted me that I chose to go to is their game. And this is going to be an amazing four years. That's because of me. And what I bring to the university more than because of the university itself. Music for this episode came from. We hereby declare p I'm Steve Gardner. If you like what you heard, please subscribe and share with a friend.

Thanks for listening. Byebye.