Help for Girlfriend Reapplying to College After Hiatus

Question: My girlfriend was accepted to many different colleges, coming out of high school, going into the fall 2011 semester. She finally decided on one college and was all setup up to go, but she couldn’t afford the price of the dorms so she ended up not going. She tried attending the local junior college for a semester but didn’t like it and ended up dropping her classes. She has been working the whole time since high school and now has money saved up. How does she go about reapplying to a university?

If your girlfriend did not complete even one semester at the JC, she would reapply to college as a freshman, but she still must list the junior college on her application. She should explain to admission officials why she attended only briefly and then left, along with what she has been doing since. (If there’s no obvious place to include this, she can send a separate letter by email to each college she applies to or she can look for an “Additional Information” section on her applications.)

If your girlfriend earned SOME credit from the community college, she may have to apply as a transfer, but this will depend on both the amount of credit she earned and on the policies at the colleges on her list. (She might have to contact each one individually to find out if she should apply as a freshman or as a transfer, if she’s not sure. And these policies can vary from college to college.)

Whether she is applying as a freshman or a transfer, her applications will ask her if she ever previously applied to this college. If the answer is yes, then she must say so. She can also contact those colleges to which she previously applied to ask if she needs to re-send her transcript and test scores or if they still have that information on file.

SAT and ACT scores are good for five years. So if your girlfriend took these tests within that time frame, she does not need to take them again.

Applying to college after a break of a couple years really isn’t much different than applying straight from high school except that colleges will want to know what the applicant has been doing with the time since high school graduation. So, as I noted above, your girlfriend must explain what she has been up to. She should be sure include her short stint in the junior college and why she left as well as her job history and any other worthwhile pursuits she’s been involved with (sports, hobbies, family activities, volunteering, etc.). She will probably have to submit new teacher references, too, which might be a little tricky since she’s not in school right now. The colleges that she applied to two years ago probably did not save her old references, but she can ask if they did and, if so, if these will suffice.

It is likely that any college that accepted her previously will admit her again once she’s shown that she has spent this time earning money to afford college. She may also want to expand her college list so that it includes schools that could provide enough financial aid to make dorm life affordable, if she still would prefer to live in a dorm.

As your girlfriend goes through this process, she might find it a bit daunting. It’s daunting for almost everyone but perhaps more so for those who are not in school. So she shouldn’t hesitate to phone or email admission offices directly if she’s confused and needs assistance.

Good luck to her!