How can students make the most of their second choice?

Admissions Decisions

Our counselors answered:

How can students make the most of their second choice?

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

Second Choices Can Lead to Success

It's easy to be disappointed during college admissions session. With the volume of applications, colleges are turning down qualified applicants in record numbers. Sometimes, that causes pain, especially if a student has his or her heart set on one college. Fortunately, there are enormous benefits to going to any school, and it's up to that (disappointed?) student to make the most of his or her college experience. To do that, the student should get to know professors and reach out to fellow students. He or she should continue with extracurricular activities which will be a way of escaping the academic grind and meeting new people. Sometimes a student who is not at his or her top-choice school can really be an academic star at one of the back-ups. This is good for the transcript and the ego! Finally, no decision is permanent. Transferring is always an option. But students should always give the second-choice school every chance.

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures

Not getting into your first choice

Number 1, I hope you are applying to colleges you would enjoy going to. I discourage students from having a "first choice omg if I don't get in my life is over" college. There isn't just one college you would love, there are several. Honest. The more popular the college, the less control you have. Never let a college tell you what YOU are worth. Obviously your "second choice" college knows what you are worth, and they want you on their campus. Number 1 doesn't know what they are missing. Remember this: you are being judged according to criteria you would NEVER use to judge someone else, and no one will ever judge YOU again by these criteria. Immerse yourself in the joy of going to your new first choice, I am betting you will be very successful and happy there.

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

have the list ready to go

I suggest you to consider your top five schools seriouly. if you have options to select the best one once acceptences are offered, you should not change your list based on the top five schools.

Melanie Hayes
Educational Consultant Gifted/Talented

Second Best

If you look at your life's journey as a train that stops at many stations and allows you to get on and off any number of times, it can help you gain perspective about rejection. Your second choice may not be second best. There may be opportunities that arise at your second choice that may not have been possible at your first choice. That rejection letter can give you an opportunity to reevaluate your goals. Why did you choose your first choice school? What is it about your second choice that makes you feel it is not as good? What do you really want out of life? What are you looking for in a college? How many ways can you achieve your goals? I know many students who have received rejections and used that experience as an opportunity to regroup. I just spoke recently with a student who had been rejected two years ago because his GPA was not high enough. He decided to do the first two years of his college courses at a local community college. While there, he applied himself with absolute focus and finished his first two years with a 4.0 GPA. He also made connections with professors who shared his passion and was able to get sterling letters of recommendation from them. His professors also connected him with a professional opportunity in his field of study. With his newly acquired experience, connections, and resources, he reapplied to his first school of choice again and was accepted. He began coursework this fall and is loving the experience. I also know a student who was rejected from the only school she ever wanted to attend. She was devastated. We explored what it was about her first choice that made it so appealing. We listed all the qualities of that school and then began to look at other schools and compare them to her list. In the end we found several other colleges that were comparable and could give her similar experiences and opportunities as her first choice. She applied to three of those other colleges and was accepted at two of them. She is now a junior at the college she chose and is happily reporting the experience is fulfilling all of her hopes. Life is full of opportunities. Many of the best ones come from unexpected turns in our life's journey. So don't despair. Open yourself up to new possibilities. Look for hidden opportunities. Reevaluate your choices. It's not about better or best, it is about finding out how to make the most of any situation. Not being accepted at your first choice is not the end of the world. In fact, it may just be the beginning...

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

How can students make the most of their second choice?

Forget that it is your second choice and dive right into the campus--academics and activities. Soon you probably will not even remember that you ever wanted to go to a different school! Always be mindful that your college experience will be what you make of it and take control of your future.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

How can students make the most of their second choice?

Think about why your chose that school in the first place! Sure -- you are probably disappointed if you cannot attend your first choice -- but you need to move on and think about the options that you DO have. Remember, when compiling a list -- choose carefully and ask yourself, "would I happy to attend any of these schools if admitted?" Ultimately, it's not about the specific school or brand name that makes an education. It's the student! It's the student who can make the most (or the least) of an experience. If you tackle the opportunities that you have with diligence. vigor, and hard work -- you will succeed in whatever you choose. It's YOU that will make the difference - not your specific choice of school. Make the most of your individual talents and you will definitely make the most of whichever school you attend!

Karen Ekman-Baur
Director of College Counseling Leysin American School

Making the Second Choice

When deciding which schools to apply to, every single one of your choices should be an institution in which you would feel comfortable and where you feel that you would have a good experience both academically, extracurricularly, and socially. Try not to rank the schools in your mind as "first choice", "second choice", etc. (I know that's hard to avoid, but really do try very hard not to categorize them in that way!) Then when you get your acceptances and the usually inevitable denials, you will not be in a position of having to "make the most" of your second choice. You will already know that each one of the schools to which you applied could have been a "first choice" for you, and when you get actively involved with classes, activities, and friends during your Freshman year, whatever school you're in will indeed become your "first choice".

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

First Choice, Second Choice, Right Choice

The best way to make the most of the second choice is to lose the number. Regardless of a student’s interests and ambitions there is no single right school and at the highest levels the admission decision making might as well have involved a roll of the dice so to let it determine your outlook is totally unproductive. Indeed, more important than any than any label is what the individual student makes of their education. It is about an educational experience, not a line on a resume. If they go limping onto the campus of their “second” choice, then it will be a disaster, but if they embrace the opportunity and take full advantage of all the school lit has to offer then they will have a valuable and rewarding educational experience. Ultimately a student has more control over that than they did over the admissions process. Make it yours and it will be a good one.

Joseph Tavares

How can students make the most of their second choice?

It's tough when you're rejected by a college you really wanted to go. Yet, I tell students they have 24 hours to feel bad about the situation, and then they need to dust themselves and realize the opportunity to find a perfect place to continue their education still exists. In terms of a strategy, I tell students to re-evaluate why they wanted to study at that school in the first place. From there, we figure out other possible colleges and universities that have similar characters and curriculum. Remember, going to college is a commitment to self-improvement and a launch pad to future personal and professional success. Don't let a speed bump ruin your journey!

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

How can students make the most of their second choice?

While it may be your second choice, this school has chosen you. Enjoy knowing that they want you, they see you fitting in there, no one else ever needs to know it wasn't your first choice college. Chances are good that over the next four years, you won't be able to even imagine graduating from anywhere else! Get involved, make stuff happen that you saw and liked on that first choice campus, and remember that you put this school on your list for some reason. Embrace the here and now and you won't be sorry.