The Power of the First College Acceptance

Published by Wendy Nelson on

approvalA large envelope came in the mail the other day.  The graphics on the outside gave away the message inside, but I handed it to my daughter to open.  She showed no reaction until she read the letter inside and then said, “You mean I don’t have to worry about getting into college?”  It was her first college acceptance.  I laughed and said, “You were really worried?”

Parents, do not underestimate the power of the first college acceptance that your high school senior receives.  Even if it is not a school near the top of their list, students feel a great sense of relief just knowing that they have been admitted somewhere.

This is like a milestone on a long journey.  You arrive and it gives you that extra “push” to get through the next leg of the trip.

The best first college acceptance letters come while the student is still diligently working on other college applications (or procrastinating about starting them).

Here’s my advice to make sure your child can benefit from this “first college acceptance” milestone:

  • Find a list of schools that offer rolling admissions – I found this short list, Highest-Ranked Schools With Rolling Admissions, published in 2014.  I also found this long list, List of Colleges with Rolling Admissions, on
  • Have your student look into some of these schools and find at least one school he or she may be interested in, at least as a “safety” school.
  • Be sure your student has displayed “demonstrated interest” through direct contact with the school.  A campus visit is best if the school is close enough.  Otherwise, contact with the admissions officer will work with the promise of visiting campus as soon as the family schedule will allow.
  • Have your student complete the application as soon as it is available.  With rolling admissions schools, the sooner you get the application in, the sooner you get a decision back.

In my daughter’s case, the school she received her first college acceptance from is also her current top school.  This resulted in her saying, “Maybe I should just stop there.”  Of course my answer was no.  I told her she needed to continue to apply to other schools so she could compare and have options for her final decision.  While I thought it may be hard to get her motivated to do that, she had a second application almost completed the next day.  So, it worked!

As I said, never underestimate the power of the first college acceptance!