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The basics
Study abroad : Applying to University

What happens if you are not accepted at your chosen university?

It’s never easy if you don’t receive an offer from your dream university. However, you still have options. We explain how to approach this situation and what you can do to keep your study abroad ambitions on track.

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So, you’ve decided where you want to study and made an application to your favourite university. You’ve already started planning to live in a new country and embark on an exciting new phase of your life. But then things don’t go to plan, and you don’t receive an offer from an institution. What do you do? We’re here to assist and guide you through these challenges. We’ve got ideas and suggestions on the steps to take to turn disappointment into an opportunity and find a positive path forward. 


What are the most common reasons universities don’t accept students?

It’s normal to feel confused or upset if you don’t receive an offer from a university. However, you should see non-acceptance as a failure. There are many reasons why a university may reject an application, including:


  • Missing documentation or letters
  • Incomplete application forms 
  • Missed application deadline 
  • Not meeting all entry requirements 
  • Not including the adequate financial information 
  • Student quotas for a course are reached if places are limited
  • Not submitting evidence of English language tests and skills
  • A poor personal statement 


Make a comprehensive list of everything you need before submitting your application. Speak to your prospective university’s admission office to verify you understand the application procedure. In addition, you can use an expert and qualified education counsellor to help you with your application. 


University applications can be very competitive, so it’s important to dedicate enough time to putting your application together. You want to make an impression, which means your personal statement, portfolio of work (in some cases), and admission test results can be critical. Get help and ask for advice with both before submission. 



What steps can I take to check my application status?

If you’re concerned about your application or want to check the status, you have a few options available. You can:


  • Use your prospective university’s online application portal to check your status. 
  • You can contact the admissions office directly via email or phone to see if you have an offer.
  • Check the status of your offer. Not all offers mean you have been accepted. 
  • If you have used an education counsellor or service, contact your representative to get the information you want. 


Always find out the preferred method of communication your chosen university uses. This way you won’t miss any important updates. Some of the ways universities communicate information about your application are:


  • Email 
  • SMS 
  • Instant Messaging 
  • Letter
  • Via telephone
  • App notifications


For certain degrees and subjects, you may need to attend an interview or give a performance. This is usually included with all of the information relating to an application, so should not come as a surprise. The strength of your interview or performance can influence whether you are accepted.


What alternatives do I have if I’m not accepted at my first-choice university?

If you aren’t successful in being accepted at the university of your choice, you do have other options and opportunities. You will often be asked to provide a list of three or four universities you are interested in when making your application. It’s a good idea to apply to several universities rather than a single institution. 


Sometimes you may not be accepted directly onto a degree course but have the option of doing a foundation qualification, such as a pre-masters or pre-sessional English course. Further, you could be offered a place on a pathway programme or associate degree that allows you to progress to full degree study later. You may also consider vocational education or apply to a community college in the USA. 


Universities may have multiple intakes throughout an academic year, especially for postgraduate courses. Make sure you know when these are, as with the help of a counsellor or university admissions officer, you can apply again with the additional information you have received from your first try and may be successful. 


Sometimes due to the number of students applying to a specific course you may not be accepted. However, it is not unusual for your first-choice university to offer you an alternative or related course, if they see you as a student with potential. This may be a different specialisation or an alternate route to the same qualification. Be open to these opportunities. 



What are the next steps?

To begin on a new path after not receiving an offer, there are several steps that you can take. Firstly, you should always contact the university and ask for the reason/s why your application was unsuccessful. This will give you important information for future applications and how to improve. 


The second step is to assess alternative options available to you, which you can discuss with your prospective university or an education counsellor. Not being given an offer does not mean you cannot start on a different academic path, such as a pre-sessional course or pathway programme. 


Thirdly, check for alternate application deadlines during the year. You may be able to re-submit your application or re-apply later. Make sure that your application is 100 per cent complete and includes all of the information required. 


Another step you can take is to apply to alternative universities or degree programmes. Research your options and evaluate your goals and ambitions. You can also use tools such as FastLane, which will give you a very clear idea if you qualify for university admission within minutes. Not getting an offer may mean waiting six months to a year if you want to attend a specific university only. Remember that you can also transfer credits from one university to another, so you could end up at your first-choice university. 


Not getting an offer can be disheartening, but it does not mean the end of your academic journey. You will still have options and opportunities. You can get more information by reading our guide to studying abroad questions, five common application mistakes to avoid, and how an international office can help you. 


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