The aftermath of April 1 each year is hard on many students. For most of us, rejection is/was part of the college admission process.

Rejection does sting. In fact, it’s downright painful and it feels more personal than it should. One of my favorite writers, Joan Didion, wrote in 1968 about her experience with rejection from Stanford University in 1952 – long before Stanford was denying 95%+ of those who apply these days. You can read it here.

I remember all too clearly my experience(s) with rejection. Among my “thin envelopes” (back in the day you waited for a “thick” or “thin” envelope to arrive in the mail) included those from Clemson and Syracuse Universities, forever cementing my distaste for the color orange. Three more later arrived from Boston College, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Alabama.

I had no business applying to Penn to begin with so I wasn’t all that sore with the news from West Philly, but the short words from ‘Bama stung hard. Upon hearing the news, my less-than-empathetic dad cracked “I guess there are a lot of Irish Catholic Russian Jews from Boston who were itchin’ to go to Tuscaloosa this year.” Keep in mind this was decades ago, long before the Crimson Tide’s surge in popularity north of the Mason Dixon.

But like most, I rebounded quickly and went off to have the most wonderful college experience ever. The news is hard at first, but the sting wears off and the experience only makes you stronger.

For those who didn’t get good news from NYU this year, I would offer the following:

First, try to move on – quickly. We do not have an appeal process. We never, ever change admission decisions to preserve the integrity of our process. Still hundreds of students send appeal letters or get others to send appeal letters to us each year. Our focus, however, has now turned to our transfer admission process and we regrettably cannot respond to such appeals and we cannot reconsider candidates for first-year admission. Don’t appeal your admission decision. Forget us – quickly.

If forgetting NYU isn’t an option, instead of an appeal, begin building your case for transfer admission. With each passing day, your high school record and testing profile will matter less and you can look like a very different candidate a year from now. Transfer admission is a viable option at NYU. We have a remarkable capacity for transfer students in most of our programs. For some of our programs, we consider transfer applications from current college/university first-year students for the spring semester. You could apply by November 1 and we will evaluate your candidacy based on not just your high school record and testing profile, but your mid-term performance at another college or university. Finish your senior year strong, focus on doing well during your first semester at another college or university, and you could be in Greenwich Village by next January.

Finally, know that this experience will not define you. I’ve always advised that for most of us, if you are admitted to every college or university to which you applied, you didn’t aim high enough.


  • Hi! Shawn, nice article – but I am waitlisted :-0((( What do i need to do??. I have received admission letters from some other great universities but NYU -Stern is my first and dream choice. ? Is there something I can do between now and May 1st to improve my chances of getting in?

    Yash Bhate, International Application, CA ID 14101399

  • You know, the couple of blog entries I just read somewhat distractedly while filling out another form for an NYU tour just blew me away. My daughter is on the wait list for this Fall and I was almost relieved she didn’t get in so that she’s not in the city (I used to live there as a British transplant and know how intense it can be). However, your blog about rejection, your personal story and also your blog about there being room for kids who “aren’t the best in show” just made me look at NYU differently. My daughter (her name is Cameron Black and she’d cringe if she saw this) really, genuinely wants to learn. And she’s watched other kids cheat and claw and pop anxiety pills in order to get in somewhere. It’s nuts this year. She decided to live. The be sensible. To study hard but take things in, to ACTUALLY learn and then stop with the test scores and the extra extra curriculars and the STUFF. If NYU truly reflects your point of view, now i hope she possibly gets in. Maybe it will suit her after all. Hats off to you Mr Abbott for inspiring at least one person. Thanks!

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