Tyler.College Rejections.Reduced.2nd photo.Use this photoBy the end of March, your high school senior will either have received that coveted acceptance email to his or her top-choice college or the dreaded rejection letter in your mailbox.

If your child is a straight-A student who plays varsity sports, wins state music competitions, serves as president of the senior class, and volunteers at the local animal shelter, it may be hard to understand why he or she was rejected from any college.

It is especially difficult for students applying to the most selective schools to figure out why they didn’t make the cut, especially if their SAT or ACT scores were within the colleges’ acceptable range.

Yet many colleges do not look at your child as an individual with all the exceptional qualities he or she may have. They are reviewing a large pool of applicants and selecting students who may meet certain criteria they are looking for in the next freshman class.

Here are five ways to help you understand the logic behind the college admissions process:

1. It’s beyond the student’s control. There are certain things that students can control: their test scores, GPA, extracurricular activities and a well-written application. But there are many factors beyond their influence. Your child’s dream school, for example, may be looking for players for the varsity lacrosse team or for applicants from the West Coast. Students also can’t control who reads their applications, which may affect whether they are accepted or not.

2. Geography matters. If your family lives in a populous state like New York, which generates a large number of college applicants, your child may be at a disadvantage. On the other hand, living in a state that has fewer high school seniors applying to college can be an advantage. Another factor is how many students are applying to selective colleges from your high school. Many elite schools are not likely to accept three students from a single high school. Additionally, the admissions office will view it negatively if you live within four hours of a college and don’t visit the campus

3. Legacy counts. If your child has a direct family connection to the college, that will help his or her application. Typically, a college will only consider parents who attended the school in the legacy equation, but some colleges count any family member. Family connections matter because from the college’s point of view, alumni whose children were accepted to the school are more likely to become donors.

4. Your student’s major plays a factor. Many universities ask students to not only list their intended major, but also the specific school within the university they want to attend. Students have to decide whether to apply to the business, engineering or liberal arts school before they even take their first class. Choosing the most popular major at a particular college may increase your child's chances of rejection. That is why it’s a good idea to list a second major on the application.

5. Don’t apply at the last minute. The timing of your child’s application can affect his or her acceptance rate. If your child is applying to a large public university, it is best to submit the application before Dec. 31, even if the deadline is Feb. 1. At large public universities, many students will not be accepted if they don’t apply by the end of December.

Whether your child is accepted to his or her top-choice schools may seem as if it’s an arbitrary decision. The truth is there are multiple factors that play a role, and many are beyond your child’s control.

What your family can control, however, is whether your child applies to a balanced list of schools. The list should include reach schools, likely-to-be-admitted schools, and less competitive schools. A college advisor can help your child develop a solid list of colleges, which will increase his or her chances of success in the college admissions process.

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