What are the Most Common Reasons Schools Reject Applicants?

No student wants to hear it, but the reality of college and grad school admissions is that there are many, many more applicants at good schools than there are available spots. Every year, schools send out thousands of rejection letters wishing students luck elsewhere.

In this post, we discuss the most common reasons schools reject candidates.

1. Low grades and test scores

Top schools tend to dissect students’ academic records and test scores. Students whose numbers aren’t up to par still have a chance at admission, but they’ll have to really go the extra mile with other parts of their application to make up for poor academics.

2. Poor choice of schools

Sometimes students don’t select a wide enough range of schools that match their numbers. If you have low grades and test scores, you can’t apply to only the highest-ranked schools and call it a day. Make sure that you have a sufficient number of target and safety schools on your list to boost your odds of acceptance.

3. Insufficient experience in your intended field

A lack of experience in your intended field can absolutely give admissions officers reasons to move your file to the “rejected” pile. If you want to go to med school, you’ll need to spend some time shadowing physicians at a nearby hospital. If you’re more interested in business school, you should have an impressive resume of business experiences. Looking for a master’s in social work? It’d be smart to have some background in social work from your undergraduate days.

4. Weak extracurricular activities

Schools aren’t interested in students who don’t get involved with any activities outside of school. If your resume is looking a little bare, think about where your interests lie, and find avenues to explore those interests beyond the classroom. Clubs and organizations are a good place to start.

5. Mediocre letters of recommendation

Admissions officers look to letters of recommendation for an objective third-party opinion on your character and ability. Your letter writers should know you well – if not, admissions officers might end up reading letters that sound plain and generic.

6. Unmemorable personal statement

Since admissions officers sift through thousands of personal statements in an application cycle, you’ll need to make yours stand out from the competition. Students who write bland essays won’t give schools a sense of who they really are. Use your personal statement to convey your personality, interests, hobbies, and goals.

7. Lack of interview preparation

Interviews represent an opportunity to convey your enthusiasm and interest in a school. If you don’t do your research and prepare ahead of time, admissions officers will not be impressed.

About the Author:

Catherine Blogger PhotoCatherine supports Magoosh’s future grad school students by unlocking tricks of the test prep and application trade. Catherine spends her free time checking out local farmer’s markets, reading food and lifestyle blogs, and watching Bravo. She is forever in search of the best Mexican and Italian food in any given city.

Photo attributions:
1 – Photo at top courtesy of Flickr user Just Joe under Creative Commons License 2.0.


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