I was rejected from my top school and waitlisted at my second choice. How do I pick a backup?

Admissions Decisions

Our Counselors Answered:

I was rejected from my top school and waitlisted at my second choice. How do I pick a backup?

Pamela Hampton-GarlandOwnerScholar Bound

I was rejected from my top school and waitlisted at my second choice. How do I pick a backup?

First, my apologies for your outcomes. There is hope. Look at the two schools you desired to attend and compare what was great about them that really made you want to attend….now if your reason is simply name or parental force…..you are in good shape because there are many great schools that most parents would be honored to say their child attended, if it was for a particular major take some time to find out if you have met the minimal guidelines that they require for admission (not SAT/ACT scores or GPA or school involvement only) but outside volunteerism, a well written personal statement and quality letters of recommendation and finally did you visit the school and get to know the admissions staff so that you can get the inside scoop of what really matters and so they can place a face with a name with the application comes across the desk….hope this helps, you will do fine.

Karen Ekman-BaurDirector of College CounselingLeysin American School

I was rejected from my top school and waitlisted at my second choice. How do I pick a backup?

Many college advisors recommend that a student apply to between six and ten institutions. If you try to apply to too many, your financial and time resources will be stretched, and if you apply to too few, you will be limiting too much your odds of being accepted. So assuming that you did apply to between six and ten schools, those institutions should all be schools to which you would be happy and excited to be accepted. If possible, try not to think so much in terms of “top”, “second choice”, etc. because you cannot know ahead of time whether you’ll be accepted or not, so there’s no need to set yourself up for disappointment. But you apparently did think in terms of “top” and “second choice”, and those applications didn’t work out as successfully as you had hoped. What do you do now? Look at all of your remaining applications and take time to “research” those schools again using the information you gathered earlier when you were doing your initial research. Consider all aspects: academic programs of interest to you, sports, campus culture, location, various student opportunities, cost, financial aid possibilities, weather . . . In short, reconsider everything. Since you made a decision to apply to all of those schools on your list in the first place, they must represent many aspects that are appealing to you. In fact, ideally, you would have felt rather sad to let any of them go. As you go back over the list of schools, hopefully all of which are desirable to you, try to determine which one(s) make you feel excited when you think about attending. If there are any schools which don’t make you feel that way, forget about them. They shouldn’t have been on the list in the first place. Also, “let go” of the non-acceptance from your “top school”. If you applied carefully, the non-acceptance is in no way a reflection on you personally, but is the result of many, many qualified students applying for admission in a highly competitive market. You may choose to hang on to the idea of being taken off the wait list at your “second choice”, but be aware that, depending on the school, being taken off the wait list is not a sure thing. It would be better to start focusing your attention on loving the remaining schools on your list.

Carita Del ValleFounderAcademic Decisions

I was rejected from my top school and waitlisted at my second choice. How do I pick a backup?

Hopefully you worked with a private admissions counselor who was able to develop a strong mix of colleges that match your academic profile. For my clients, this usually is 10-15 schools that match the academic achievements and desires of the student. With most applying to around 10 schools Spring time comes around and we look at all of the letters of acceptance and then reevaluate and revisit the campuses. Things often look different a second time around, especially when the “top school choice” has been taken off of the list and does not sway their opinion. Rest assured, many students come back and tell their families their 3rd choice (or more maybe) turned out to be the best.

Felice KobrickOwner, College Consultant,Kobrick College Consulting, LLC

I was rejected from my top school and waitlisted at my second choice. How do I pick a backup?

I always tell students “don’t fall in love with one school.” The college admissions process is unpredictable. That is why it is vitally important to have a balanced list of reach, target and safe schools. Don’t be stuck on the fact that you were not accepted to your first choice school. Instead, focus on moving forward and continuing to research all the schools on your list. That way, when you have your final acceptances in hand, you can select a new “first choice!”

Reecy ArestyCollege Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & AuthorPayless For College, Inc.

I was rejected from my top school and waitlisted at my second choice. How do I pick a backup?

You should have applied to at least 6-8 schools – big mistake if you only applied to 2!

Dr. Bruce NeimeyerCEO/PartnerGlobal College Search Associates, LLC

Remember to be true to yourself……

This question makes me think there was a disconnect between the student’s academic abilities and the schools when they were chosen. It appears as though both schools were on the more difficult side for the student to get accepted. As a result, this was a real gamble on the part of the student. Be that as it may, I am sure there were several schools that were just below numbers one and two that were chosen by the student along the way. It would be logical to go back to those choices for further consideration and exploration. Many students that I have worked with when faced with this type of outcome begin to be truer about who they are, what their abilities and limitations are and possibly their 3rd or 4th choice becomes more clearly suited for them in the long run. It is always difficult in this situation where there is so much pressure to apply to the “best” schools. But what is truly best sometimes gets buried because of outside influences skewing the student’s perspective. It is an important moment in the student’s life and in many ways provides a great opportunity for them to learn a lot more about themselves that will hopefully serve them to be true to what is “best” for them by their own accord and not others.

Elizabeth PhDEducational ConsultantThe Education Planner

What every student (and parent) needs to hear when a college says “no thanks”

Once upon a time, high school students would hang out by the mailbox hoping for the the delivery of the big fat envelope. If the envelope was small and slim, they might walk around the block a few times before reluctanctly opening it and realizing a vanished college dream. The days of reckoning are now upon us, but the news no longer comes wrapped in paper. By the end of March, high school students will have heard from colleges with either a short, brief email of “admissions denied” or a flashing computer screen, shouting “YOU’RE IN.” There’s no need to contemplate the joys of many acceptance letters. The only concern for these students is which of many offers to accept and what school to visit during Spring break when colleges host events for admitted students. But for the student who is receiving multiple letters of admissions denial, or even one letter from a particularly revered institution, the effect can be heartbreaking. Last year, a,student learned of a denial from UC San Diego with a brief and impersonal email message, “Thank you for logging in to the UC San Diego application status site for Fall Quarter undergraduate applicants. We have carefully reviewed your application and regret that we are unable to offer you admission to the University of California, San Diego. The selection process was very difficult this year due to a record number of highly competitive applicants.” News sources have consistently reported record college applications during this year’s filing period. The colleges haven’t grown in size, and many have downsized due to budget cuts and limitations in financial aid. Appeals are not accepted at either Stanford or at Occidental College in Southern California. At Occidental, James Tranquada, Director of Communications, said that they try to help the student understand the difficulty with which decisions are made. “Because we are delivering what can be disappointing news, we try to strike a balance between appreciation for their decision to apply and a sense of the competitiveness of our process. We also try to convey how much effort we put into our reading process and that every application is carefully reviewed before any decision is made,” said Tranquada. How students deal with the rejection from one school, and remain confident and positive while they await word from others, has a lot to do with students’ prior experiences with struggles and obstacles. In an interview with prominent San Francisco child and adolescent therapist Julie Robbins LCSW, she discussed the coping mechanisms, anger, and denial experienced by the families she has counseled over her thirty years of practice. Robbins explained that the responses of students are as varied as the population itself. Students’ reactions to letters of denial are influenced by three factors. First, their response will be influenced by any pre-existing mental health issues a student may be dealing with. If a child already has fears, paranoia, depression, or a host of other social or emotional difficulties, then the rejection may be experienced with heightened anxiety. Conversely, a teen whose predisposition is relaxed and confident may be able to deal with denials without a lot of emotion and drama. Second, a student’s reaction will be greatly dependent on how the college process has been presented to him or her by the parents. If parents have expressed a value and philosophy that an acceptance into any college will be applauded, then students won’t experience the devastation of their disappointed parents on top of their own sadness. If parents have good communication with their child and have reveled in all their accomplishments thus far, then rejections will be tempered with a lot of parental support. Additionally, if students have experienced other disappointments and struggles, they are likely to handle a college denial with the same strategies that have been successful for them in the past. Their experiences of not being cast in a school play, not making the sports team, or getting average grades while putting in a lot of effort, have provided them with prior models of coping and moving on. But for students who have a history of high parental expectations, entitlement, and pressure to succeed beginning in early childhood, a coveted school’s denial can have deep and tragic ramifications. For parents who believe that their student should belong within the 6% of acceptances at Stanford, the fact that 94% percent aren’t admitted is irrelevant. These parents communicate to the child that he or she has personally failed and disapproves of any acceptance that doesn’t put their student into a highly selective school. Parents who model rejection with personal blame and failure will have students who experience the most pain in this process. For students with an inherent personality that predisposes them to acceptance of life’s disappontments, this character trait may not be strong enough tp be a buffer from the unrealistic expectations of parents who accept nothing less than what they perceive as “the best.” Students who feel immense disappointment that leads to profound sadness and an inability to continue focusing on school and other activities, should seek counseling provided by their school or within their community. They should remember, as should their parents, that success comes in many forms. While the door to a highly selective college may be opened to some, it doesn’t mean that a future of great accomplishment and satisfaction is closed to everyone else. With over four thousand colleges in the United States and an unrivaled history of excellence in higher education, students who are motivated to study, to be engaged, to be adventurous, and to persevere against obstacles with strength and resiliency, will do just fine. Hopefully, their parents will too.

Elizabeth PhDEducational ConsultantThe Education Planner

What every student (and parent) needs to hear when a college says “no thanks”

Once upon a time, high school students would hang out by the mailbox hoping for the the delivery of the big fat envelope. If the envelope was small and slim, they might walk around the block a few times before reluctanctly opening it and realizing a vanished college dream. The days of reckoning are now upon us, but the news no longer comes wrapped in paper. By the end of March, high school students will have heard from colleges with either a short, brief email of “admissions denied” or a flashing computer screen, shouting “YOU’RE IN.” There’s no need to contemplate the joys of many acceptance letters. The only concern for these students is which of many offers to accept and what school to visit during Spring break when colleges host events for admitted students. But for the student who is receiving multiple letters of admissions denial, or even one letter from a particularly revered institution, the effect can be heartbreaking. Last year, a,student learned of a denial from UC San Diego with a brief and impersonal email message, “Thank you for logging in to the UC San Diego application status site for Fall Quarter undergraduate applicants. We have carefully reviewed your application and regret that we are unable to offer you admission to the University of California, San Diego. The selection process was very difficult this year due to a record number of highly competitive applicants.” News sources have consistently reported record college applications during this year’s filing period. The colleges haven’t grown in size, and many have downsized due to budget cuts and limitations in financial aid. Appeals are not accepted at either Stanford or at Occidental College in Southern California. At Occidental, James Tranquada, Director of Communications, said that they try to help the student understand the difficulty with which decisions are made. “Because we are delivering what can be disappointing news, we try to strike a balance between appreciation for their decision to apply and a sense of the competitiveness of our process. We also try to convey how much effort we put into our reading process and that every application is carefully reviewed before any decision is made,” said Tranquada. How students deal with the rejection from one school, and remain confident and positive while they await word from others, has a lot to do with students’ prior experiences with struggles and obstacles. In an interview with prominent San Francisco child and adolescent therapist Julie Robbins LCSW, she discussed the coping mechanisms, anger, and denial experienced by the families she has counseled over her thirty years of practice. Robbins explained that the responses of students are as varied as the population itself. Students’ reactions to letters of denial are influenced by three factors. First, their response will be influenced by any pre-existing mental health issues a student may be dealing with. If a child already has fears, paranoia, depression, or a host of other social or emotional difficulties, then the rejection may be experienced with heightened anxiety. Conversely, a teen whose predisposition is relaxed and confident may be able to deal with denials without a lot of emotion and drama. Second, a student’s reaction will be greatly dependent on how the college process has been presented to him or her by the parents. If parents have expressed a value and philosophy that an acceptance into any college will be applauded, then students won’t experience the devastation of their disappointed parents on top of their own sadness. If parents have good communication with their child and have reveled in all their accomplishments thus far, then rejections will be tempered with a lot of parental support. Additionally, if students have experienced other disappointments and struggles, they are likely to handle a college denial with the same strategies that have been successful for them in the past. Their experiences of not being cast in a school play, not making the sports team, or getting average grades while putting in a lot of effort, have provided them with prior models of coping and moving on. But for students who have a history of high parental expectations, entitlement, and pressure to succeed beginning in early childhood, a coveted school’s denial can have deep and tragic ramifications. For parents who believe that their student should belong within the 6% of acceptances at Stanford, the fact that 94% percent aren’t admitted is irrelevant. These parents communicate to the child that he or she has personally failed and disapproves of any acceptance that doesn’t put their student into a highly selective school. Parents who model rejection with personal blame and failure will have students who experience the most pain in this process. For students with an inherent personality that predisposes them to acceptance of life’s disappontments, this character trait may not be strong enough tp be a buffer from the unrealistic expectations of parents who accept nothing less than what they perceive as “the best.” Students who feel immense disappointment that leads to profound sadness and an inability to continue focusing on school and other activities, should seek counseling provided by their school or within their community. They should remember, as should their parents, that success comes in many forms. While the door to a highly selective college may be opened to some, it doesn’t mean that a future of great accomplishment and satisfaction is closed to everyone else. With over four thousand colleges in the United States and an unrivaled history of excellence in higher education, students who are motivated to study, to be engaged, to be adventurous, and to persevere against obstacles with strength and resiliency, will do just fine. Hopefully, their parents will too.

Benjamin CaldarelliPartnerPrinceton College Consulting, LLC

I was rejected from my top school and waitlisted at my second choice. How do I pick a backup?

Hopefully your final college list included schools that you were sure to be admitted to and have many of the same qualities that made the first two schools your favorites. Review the aspects of the colleges that attracted you and compare them to the the schools you were admitted to. Many less selective schools have similar features to more selective schools.

Bill PrudenHead of Upper School, College CounselorRavenscroft School

I was rejected from my top school and waitlisted at my second choice. How do I pick a backup?

If the decisions at those 2 schools have already been made it may be too late to find back ups. Ideally, students should develop and work from a list that includes a range of schools, and in general, every student’s list should have at last one “safety” school, a place where admission is as certain as it can ever be in this process. All of that being said, there are schools whose final application deadline is not until literally just a few days before school starts in the fall, so there is stil time in some places. Too, NACAC, the National Association for College Admissions Counseling always has a list in late spring of places that still have space so you could go to your counselor who could consult that and offer some possibilities. Of course too, a year of working is not a bad thing and then you can apply again to a new set of schools.

Rebecca JosephExecutive Director & Foundergetmetocollege.org

I was rejected from my top school and waitlisted at my second choice. How do I pick a backup?

Ideally, you applied to a nice range of colleges. I have many kids to whom this happens and they end up better than kids who got into their top school. Look at the colleges on your list and go visit. I had a girl do this and she fell in love with a university that was originally a back up. Many backups have better programs, campuses, and opportunities. You need to give colleges a chance.

Megan DorseySAT Prep & College AdvisorCollege Prep LLC

I was rejected from my top school and waitlisted at my second choice. How do I pick a backup?

If you only had two acceptable options on your list, you received bad counseling advice. Spring is not the time to pick a backup school when you are reeling from rejection and disenchanted. Multiple backups should have been built into your college list last fall. Hopefully, you have some of these schools and you just need to choose from the list of colleges where you have been admitted. If you need to, make additional campus visits. You want to pick a school where you will be most successful, one where you are comfortable academically, socially, geographically, and financially can afford to attend.

Amy Foley

Crossing a name off your list is a good thing

Since finding the right college is about finding the right fit, you’ll need to “try on” many.  Schools you liked online or in your guidance office may not feel the same in person.   Do your homework, selecting schools with majors that interest you most.  Then, get out there and visit.  We all have classrooms, libraries, residence halls, dining halls, gyms, and more.  What is most important is how you feel about the place.  Do you like the size? location? vibe?  If not, cross that school off your list and move on.

Andrea Van Niekerk

Remember why backup schools seemed like good choices months earlier

Everyone has a dream school, but in reality that school may say no, or at best, maybe.  Stay on the waitlist then, sending a letter of continued commitment, but also focus on alternatives.  Hopefully you researched diligently and applied only to schools you could imagine attending.  Remind yourself now why a school was on your list – explore the course catalog, Facebook with current students, attend admitted student events to take the measure of prospective classmates.  College will be whatever you make of it, wherever you attend, and after a few months, you will hardly recall having had another dream!

Enid ArbeloEditor in ChiefNextStepU

By exploring new options you may find something even better…

First of all, don’t panic. There are plenty of other options out there. And although it may be hard to believe this right now (while you deal with the sting of rejection) this change in plans could be a good thing for you. This can force you to explore other options close to home or far away and even reconsider programs like a 2+2, where you attend a community college and transfer to a four-year school. Taking the time to investigate new academic program options can save you money and time in the long run. And remember, it’s their loss!

James MaroneyDirectorFirst Choice College Placement

Congratulations! You’ve still got options. Here’s how to maximize them…

First, send a letter accepting your place on the waitlist and updating the college with new activities or awards since you initially applied.  Ask if you can interview, if you haven’t yet.  Also, ask them if you can submit additional letters of recommendation or other supplemental materials.  Next, evaluate your backup schools. Visit them and ask yourself, “Can I see myself walking across this campus to go to class? Can I see myself being friends with these students?”  Talk to as many current and former students as possible.  Then make a list of the pros and cons for each school.    

Jennifer DesMaisonsDirector of College CounselingThe Putney School in Vermont

Focus, research and carefully compare based on what matters most…

Send any updated information about grades, activities or leadership to your waitlist school. Make a list of the things that matter most to you (city, small classes, strong athletics, access to art classes, options for research as an undergrad, like-minded people, focus on community). Comb through college websites for answers. Sign up for any revisit days. Compare financial aid packages as part of the equation. Reach out to students who attend these schools and ask questions. Notice the places and people that you are drawn to most. Those “backup” schools were on your original list for a reason.

Joan Bress Director and Certified Educational PlannerCollege Resource Associates

From disappointment comes opportunity  …

Rejection feels awful, especially when it’s from a college you really, really want to attend. Remember, though, that you won’t be enrolling in Most Favorite University, there are other wonderful colleges that will be happy to have you as a student. Reread your applications, especially the “Why do I want to go to this school” essays. Think about how you’ve grown and matured in the past few months. You might find that what looked like second best in December looks much better in May. Be open to new opportunities and you will find the things you loved about MFU at a school that is eager to welcome you to their community.

Mark MontgomeryFounderMontgomery Educational Counseling

Allow yourself to fall in love all over again…

Infatuation is not a great way to choose a spouse. Or a college. Better to have some fundamental criteria of compatibility. Assuming that you began the college selection process in a relatively rational way, you can now return to those criteria as you research the colleges that have indicated you are a great fit for them.  Those criteria will also help you ask better questions when you correspond with members of that college community. It also helps to get on the Facebook page created for new admits:  you’ll find plenty of people over the moon about being accepted to that college. The enthusiasm can be infectious, and you may find yourself falling in love. For real.

Maura KastbergExecutive Director of Student ServicesRSC

Being wait listed is not the end…

Indicate to the college that if you are chosen you will attend. No response causes them to drop you from their list. If there has been significant improvement in any part of your record since you applied, ask a teacher or counselor to confirm this in writing, then let the college know. Do not pressure the college with calls or letters. To cover your bases, make a deposit at a college that has offered to accept you. You may have to forfeit the deposit if you are accepted later at your preferred school. If this was your reach school you may not want to be in academic competition at this college. You may ultimately be happier somewhere else.

Sara HernandezDirector of the Office of Diversity Programs in EngineeringCornell University

Accept the Waitlist Invite, But Secure Your Spot at Another School!…

Waitlist decisions can sometimes be harder on applicants than outright rejections. They provide the disappointment of a rejection but not the closure. If waitlisted, accept the invitation to be placed on the waitlist. Because this will not result in a guaranteed positive outcome, submit a deposit at another institution. However, before submitting a deposit, reflect on your priorities for your best-fit institutions and determine which among your “admit” schools most closely match these priorities. If possible, visit these schools. However, if you can’t visit, take advantage of the opportunity to interact with current students via the phone, web chats, Unigo.com, etc. so you have the opportunity to gain some peer insight before making a final decision.

Rene BickleyDirector of College CounselingThe Hammond School

Maximizing Your Odds of Getting In Off of the Waitlist…

This is your signal to spring into action.  Decide if you would attend the college if offered.  If so, communicate your intention immediately and in writing.  Next touch base with the person/s you have spoken with during the admission process and reiterate your STRONG interest.  If you can manage it, visit the campus and talk with the admissions staff personally.  This will take effort, but there’s no better way to demonstrate interest than face-to-face. Confidently articulate why the school remains your #1 choice. Don’t forget:  You are your own best advocate.  Relax, smile, engage. 

Barb FisherRecruiter, Marketing Director & Foundation Liason Rainy River Community College

Community college could be a great upfront investment!…

Consider attending a community college!  There are many benefits to attending a community college, including: Cost – it’s usually less expensive. Smaller class sizes – instructors usually know your name. An easier application process. Credits usually transfer easily. You can still apply to your “dream school” and graduate from that school  – and think of how much money you’ll save during those first 2 years!

Bill YarwoodDirector of Guidance Moorestown High School

Accept the Wait List, and Forget the One that Got Away…

Given your choices, it is time to move on and take action. Regardless of your feelings about being waitlisted, contact admissions and tell them “Yes,” you love their school and that you want to remain on the wait list. You probably know more about your back-ups than you think. If you have not visited, go to see them now! They must be great schools, or you would not have considered them. Selecting a college is a lot like choosing a mate, except it is only for a few years. Forget the one that got away. Fall in love with the college or university that loves you.

Candy CushingAssociate Director of College CounselingKing Low Heywood Thomas

Now that you know – you’re back in the driver’s seat!…

It’s ok to grieve over a rejection. Then take a deep breath and get to business. Realize that your waitlist school has become your first choice. Contact admissions directly to let them know you will attend if admitted off the waitlist; also advise of any positive changes in your profile: accomplishments, awards, recognition. Easy information access allows you to quickly learn about your other options. Check out Unigo as well as specific college student blogs. Review what you want and what they offer.  Being in the driver’s seat – make every effort to revisit each school.

Carolyn JacobsDirector of College GuidanceJack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy

Be proactive, be patient and be at peace…

Although you may be disappointed, there is time to regroup. Let your waitlist college know about your continued interest, recent grades, and accomplishments. Demonstrate why you would be an asset to the school!  Then it takes patience while colleges try to balance the numbers for their incoming class – and to see if they will be using a waitlist. This process can take place throughout the spring and summer.  In the meantime, think back to why you applied to the colleges on your list and what your priorities are; then accept an offer of admission by May 1st.  Be at peace and celebrate your decision.  After all, there are lots of great colleges for everyone.

Dale FordCounseling Department ChairSingapore American School

Improve those waitlist chances while deciding on a backup college  …

While you should let your waitlisted school know that it is your first choice and you will go if admitted, the waitlist odds are never good. Since you have until May 1 to send a deposit to one of your other schools, spend some time making a list of what’s important to you in a college. Either on your own or during one of the programs for admitted students, visit the campuses and use your list to make comparisons. You’ll soon realize that even if you don’t come off the waitlist, you have several great college options.

Julie ManhanFounderCollege Navigation

Visiting is usually the best way to learn about a school…

How great that several other schools really want you to be a student there! I would compare your backup schools side-by-side to see which ones best meet your criteria for things you are looking for in a college, then go visit those schools.  If possible, attend the events offered specifically for admitted students.  Talking with faculty and potential classmates can give you valuable insights you just can’t get anywhere else.  If you can picture yourself living and learning with these people for the next four years, you’ve likely found the best school for you.

Kimberly AriasDirector of ProgramsProject GRAD

Compare offers from back up schools before you reject them…

One of the scariest parts of the college application process is being faced with the possibility of having to attend one of your back up schools. Since they want you, they will offer you incentives to attend their schools. Compare financial aid packages, internship programs and job placement opportunities to see what they offer you in paid school and summer work experience. Remember, many colleges will prepare you for your future. It’s humbling to be rejected but there are many excellent schools that can help you achieve your goals and many of them view you as their top choice.

Linda TurnerPresidentThe College Choice

You will end up loving the school you choose to attend!…

First, understand that there is never just one right school for you, or even two. You have two tasks: 1) decide if you want to remain on the waitlist and if so, reaffirm your interest with the school and update them periodically with any accomplishments you have achieved since you first applied.  2) You must choose to accept admission at one of your other schools.  Review the academic and social factors that drove your college search and attend Admitted Student Weekends prepared to validate those factors.  Ask yourself, Can I see myself feeling at home here?  Your answer will come.

Patricia TamborelloCollege CounselorPlymouth Whitemarsh High School

Know the bottom line when comparing packages!…

All financial aid packages are not created equal. It is important to separate the types of aid given to you. Make a comparison sheet by listing gift aid (grants and scholarships) from self-help monies (loans and work-study) to first see if one college has awarded you more “free” aid. Then, subtract the total aid awarded by the actual cost of attending the college. If your financial aid letter does not list the total cost, you might have to go the college’s website to find that number. The difference between your total aid and the cost of attendance is an important dollar figure to know when deciding between schools.

Samia FerraroIndependent College CounselorCollege Connection

The Dreaded Thin Envelope – Now What?…

You have spent months researching schools and telling your story on numerous applications only to be denied your dream choice.  What is an 18 year old to do? Take a deep breath and remember that there are schools on your list who do want you; who feel as though you are a good fit for them. Review your criteria of what you are looking for in a school: geography, size, programs, etc. and apply these to the schools to which you have been accepted. It will be a win – win for you and the college you decide to attend.

Susan SykesPresidentSS Advisor

Don’t panic if you must select from “other options”…

First, sit down and compose a letter to your second-choice school. Tell them you remain interested in their college and hope they will admit you from the wait list. Include new information you might have such as third quarter grades (which you haven’t allowed to slip!) and recent accomplishments or awards that may have come your way. Then revisit the remaining options. Consider your initial ‘wish list’ and research each school in that context. Rank order these schools. Finally, visit as many schools as possible to help you decide. 

Farron PeatrossEducational ConsultantEduCPlanner.com

Rejected, Waitlisted, Anxious, Rethinking? Get Your Swagger Back!…

First, consult with your independent or school counselor or the college to determine if there is more information that you could submit to help your waitlist position. Perhaps, new grades, activities, situations that have changed, or letters of recommendation that were not included in your initial application? Then reconsider your remaining choices with a campus visit, if time permits, or by communicating with students on campus for their opinions/reviews. Rate the colleges based on your impressions of academic and student compatibility, major/career preparedness, geography, financial commitment, extracurricular activities, and other categories important to you. Trust your instincts!

Mitch ClarkExecutive DirectorCollege Sherpa

Focus on School Acceptances While You Waitlist…

Relieve your waitlist anxiety and make plans to attend one of the backup schools where you have been accepted.  Go to the school websites and determine which ones fit your preferences and have the right academic programs for you.  Plan campus visits before you make the final commitment to insure your choice is the right fit.  Since you don’t know anything about the schools, talk to students who go there and be sure to ask a lot of questions.  If you’ll be far from home, consider an overnight stay in the dorms.  You may find a new top choice!

Peggy HockDirector of College Counseling Pinewood School

Use the next few weeks to make a thoughtful decision…

Revisit the criteria you used to develop your college list and see how each of your choices compares. Visit the Unigo website and watch some student videos. Ask the admissions office at each college to put you in touch with current students from your area so you can ask them what the college is really like. If possible, arrange to visit the two or three colleges that seem to be the best fit.  Spend a full day imagining your self as a student at each college. Which “college experience” left you feeling the most energized?  

Robert MansuetoDirector of University CounsellingChinese International School in Hong Kong

When a “back up’ is not really an option…

Your question raises a very important point; how did you get in the position of applying to schools that you know nothing about? With approximately 3600 colleges and universities in the U.S., any student should be able to find more than one or two that you would be happy to attend. All schools on your final application list deserve the same scrutiny as any other, if for no other reason than you may be going to any one of them. A ‘back up’ should never be a school that you simply feel that you can get into; rather one that is perhaps less selective than some others, but meets your academic, social and extracurricular needs as well as your top choice.

Shelley KrauseCo-Director of College CounselingRutgers Preparatory School

You’ve got a two-pronged mission…

First, congratulations! You’re going to college! Now, think about whether or not the possible “upside” of an offer of admission to your “waitlist” school outweighs the “downside” of prolonging your admissions process. If you decide to go for it, send back that card pronto and then reach out to your admission counselor. Meanwhile, research – with a passion – the schools where you’ve been accepted; you’ll need to deposit by May 1. Have you checked out the NCES’ Navigator site? The colleges’ faculty webpages? Their career centers? Can you attend that special event for admitted students? All questions are fair game now!

David HamiltonDirector of College AdvisingSt. Mary’s Ryken High School

Work with what you have…

Even though the waitlist may seem like a possibility, students should pursue all other options at this time. If this means they need to get up to speed on their other choices, they need to do so ASAP. Be sure to visit those colleges, ask insightful questions, chat with a faculty member in your intended field of study, pick up a campus newspaper, and talk to current students. In the end, it is not where you go but what you do where you go.

Elinor AdlerFounderElinor Adler College Counseling

Get excited and demonstrate that energy to the school!…

Time to “relearn” about the school. Go to an accepted student open house to learn more about the school. Read about the school, talk with others you know at the school, review your initial criteria for choosing the school. Meet with your counselor to create a letter to the school which should include  any new information  they may not have had when making the decision, new grades, recent accomplishments, etc. Remember: There are thousands of schools in the US. That tells us there is more than one you’ll be happy at!

Hannah SerotaCollege Counselor/Idependent Educational Consultant McLean School/Creative College Connections

From “Back Up” to Terrific Choice…

First, alter the way you label the colleges that have offered you admission.  If you think of them as “back-up” schools you may prevent yourself from getting excited about colleges that are terrific for you.  Next, spend some time becoming familiar with these colleges.  Remind yourself of the criteria you used for selecting colleges and then put these schools to the test.  In what ways do they meet (or not meet) some of the essential characteristics of a good fit for you?  Compare financial aid packages to determine actual cost of attendance at each college.  I bet you discover that you have some wonderful options before you. 

Gail LewisEducational ConsultantCollege Goals

It pays to be proactive as colleges often recognize initiative…

Waitlisted students can maximize their chances of acceptance by taking the initiative to update their waitlist college with news of genuine achievements in the period since submitting the application. You may have done well at a science fair, in a poetry or photography contest, or even developed your own distinctive news item such as a display of your art at a local restaurant, organizing a car wash for Hospice, or having an article published in the local newspaper. Fax in updates that emphasize the college is your first choice school and affirm strongly that you will attend if admitted.

Mabel FreemanAsst. VP for Undergraduate AdmissionsOhio State University

Transferring: Not always where you start, but where you finish!  …

Your college options may include transferring a year from now to that favorite school.  Many institutions limit the number of freshmen but take transfer students with a year of college credits.  You could still earn your degree from that first or second choice college.  Go to their websites to check out their transfer criteria; talk with an admissions staff member about the number of transfer students they typically accept.  You could enroll for a year at a local college or one of your “back-up” schools and then transfer.  But don’t be surprised if you find yourself happy where you start!

Rachel WinstonPresidentEducators with a Vision, College Counseling Center

Consider appealing the decision or writing to your second choice…

It’s never over until it’s over. Colleges want the best fit and mix for their diverse tapestry. An amazingly talented, diverse student pool may have been selected, but students must also have right attitude and integrity, which is not tested on an SAT/ACT. Sometimes a candidate is rejected/waitlisted, but is reconsidered and admitted on appeal. You must have new information not on your original application and you must be on the top end of the college’s candidate pool, but some rejected/waitlisted students are accepted. So, what salient reasons make you their top pick? Meanwhile, visit and compare the choices you have.

Mitch ClarkExecutive DirectorCollege Sherpa

I was rejected from my top school and waitlisted at my second choice. How do I pick a backup?

Relieve your waitlist anxiety and make plans to attend one of the backup schools where you have been accepted. Go to the school websites and determine which ones fit your preferences and have the right academic programs for you. Plan campus visits before you make the final commitment to insure your choice is the right fit. Since you don’t know anything about the schools, talk to students who go there and be sure to ask a lot of questions. If you’ll be far from home, consider an overnight stay in the dorms. You may find a new top choice!

Melanie HayesEducational ConsultantGifted/Talented

Evaluate Your Goals

That rejection letter can give you an opportunity to reevaluate your goals. Why did you choose your top school? What do you really want out of life? What are you looking for in a college? How many ways can you achieve your goals? Make a list of all the reasons you wanted to go to your top school. Then look at opportunities at other schools to see how closely they match your list. Be open minded. You may find that some of your second choices may have opportunities you would not have had at your top school.

Melanie HayesEducational ConsultantGifted/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.

王文君 June ScortinoPresidentIVY Counselors Network

what is your top five list schools?

you should have more than one top school to consider. you should have five on the list from one to five. if you have a successful or winning admissions strategy, you shall enjoy options not limitations.

Tam Warner MintonConsultantCollege Adventures

Backups

Your list should always include colleges you know you can get into where you would be happy. I always suggest two reaches, two safeties, and 4-6 possibles. Your reach school is a reach because you probably won’t get in. It does not matter if you are class valedictorian with perfect SATs because if you apply to a college with an acceptance rate of 6%, chances are you won’t get in. Plan for this in advance. Have two reach schools you would like to go to if you got in, but at least 4 others you would be happy to be at. Go visit again, and make your choice. If you clear the waitlist, great. If not, you are still going to a college that is a great fit for you.

Helen H. ChoiOwnerAdmissions Mavens

I was rejected from my top school and waitlisted at my second choice. How do I pick a backup?

When you started this process, you probably applied to three types of schools: reach schools, realistic schools, and safety schools. Being rejected/waitlisted from just 2 schools — is really not a problem in the bigger scheme of things because you still have lots of options among your realistic targets and safety schools. 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. When you are looking at your remaining options — think about selecting a school where you can truly flourish. Make the most of your individual talents and you will definitely make the most of whichever school you attend!

Sarah ContomichalosManagerEducational Advisory Services, LLC

I was rejected from my top school and waitlisted at my second choice. How do I pick a backup?

Use the time before May 1st to visit the colleges where you were accepted. Many hold accepted student events in April to help students decide.

Helen H. ChoiOwnerAdmissions Mavens

I was rejected from my top school and waitlisted at my second choice. How do I pick a backup?

When you started this process, you probably applied to three types of schools: reach schools, realistic schools, and safety schools. Being rejected/waitlisted from just 2 schools — is really not a problem in the bigger scheme of things because you still have lots of options among your realistic targets and safety schools. 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. When you are looking at your remaining options — think about selecting a school where you can truly flourish. Make the most of your individual talents and you will definitely make the most of whichever school you attend!

Rana SlosbergOwnerSlosberg College Solutions LLC

Selecting a backup

Hopefully all the colleges you applied to are ones you would be happy attending. If you are not sure what your third choice college is, you may want to: – Sit down and make a list of the important features of college and how your potential colleges compare to that list. – List the academic, social and finacial pros and cons of the potential colleges. – (Re-)visit the potential colleges.

Rana SlosbergOwnerSlosberg College Solutions LLC

Selecting a backup

Hopefully all the colleges you applied to are ones you would be happy attending. If you are not sure what your third choice college is, you may want to: – Sit down and make a list of the important features of college and how your potential colleges compare to that list. – List the academic, social and finacial pros and cons of the potential colleges. – (Re-)visit the potential colleges.

Tyler BurtonPresident Burton College Tours

Revisit your list of options

Hopefully your list of schools were all good fits and you have some options. My advice is to do an overnight at some of the schools that you have been accepted to. Do write to the admissions representative of the school that you have been wait listed at and let them know that if admitted off the wait list that you plan to attend. Keep it short and sweet. Keep the wait list school apprised of significant developments in your academic profile such as bringing an AP class grade up from a B to an A.

Ellen [email protected]OwnerEllen Richards Admissions Consulting

Among record numbers of college applicants being placed on waitlists, what can you do

This year set a record for college applications, which in turn led to another record breaker: more college hopefuls being placed on waitlists than ever before. This week, as seniors across the country receive their decision letters, many will receive a dreaded waitlist letter. While being waitlisted is certainly better than rejection, only about 15 percent of students move from being “waitlisted” to “accepted.” This year waitlists are longer than ever as the largest number of high school seniors in United States history (over 3.5 million) graduate. Coupled with the increase in the number of colleges each candidate applies to and the current economic climate, dozens of universities waitlisted more than their typical admissions yield. Most are doing so in an effort to hedge their bets; in case their acceptance yield decreases, the waitlist ensures schools have enough students to fill the entering class, which translates to more money for the university. The increased number of applicants put schools in an unprecedented position – they have to sell their program to the most talented applicants who gain acceptance at several colleges and determine which students are simply “window shopping” by sending out numerous applications. In 2008, schools started putting more students on their waitlists, but they also increased the number of waitlisted applicants to whom they offered admission. Last year Harvard accepted 200 students from its waitlist – up from 50 the previous year. Princeton and Boston College doubled their number of waitlist offers. The University of Pennsylvania increased wait-list admission by one-third. Waitlisting can cause a stressful situation which leads students and parents to go to great lengths in order to ensure admission. However, most admissions counselors agree that calling multiple times a day and bombarding the admissions office is not the way to approach the situation. Instead, following these tips give you a better chance at admission: Stay positive. Being put on a waitlist can be depressing if your heart is set on that school, but try to stay positive by finding solace in the fact that you weren’t outright rejected and the admissions office noticed you enough to put you on the waitlist, giving you a chance of being admitted. Find out your chances of admission. You will typically receive a letter with information concerning your waitlisted application. Do not hesitate to call the admissions office and inquire about the number of students on the waitlist in the past and how many of those students were later offered admission. You can also ask if the university will release your rank on the waitlist. Show the college you are still interested. If you decide to remain on the waitlist, return the form indicating your interest and follow directions provided in the waitlist letter. Send a letter to inform the admissions office that the college is your top choice and that you will attend if admitted. After that, follow up with a phone call and request another (or a first) admissions interview. Just remember to not be too pushy when contacting the school. Be persistent, but don’t pester. Correspond with the school, follow up, update them regarding your grades or any awards you may have earned since you submitted your application and send an additional teacher recommendation letter. Let the school know it is your first choice. Follow the rules. You need to work the system, but don’t press your luck by sending an overwhelming number of letters of recommendations or, even worse, paying initial deposits at several schools while still holding out for admission off a waitlist. While you must pay a deposit by May 1 to reserve your spot at a school, it is illegal and unethical to pay more than one deposit. Let schools know you can pay. Especially this year, even need-blind schools seek students who can afford to pay the tuition. Reserve a space at a college that accepted you. Make sure you have a back-up plan in case you are not accepted at the school that waitlisted you. Review the list of colleges that accepted you and send in a deposit to your top choice school from that list. Since colleges don’t decide who will be admitted from the waitlist until after the May 1st decision deadline, it’s crucial that you enroll at another school just in case. Keep in mind that if you are accepted off the waitlist and decide to attend the school, you will forfeit your deposit elsewhere. Also, if you are accepted off the waitlist, the school may not be able to offer you the same financial aid package or housing opportunities as they did earlier admits. Be sure to weigh the cons against the pros and decide if attending the school that waitlisted you is the best choice. If you are not accepted off the waitlist, remember that you will have just as many great college experiences at your second choice school!

Wendy Andreen, PhD

There is a College (More Than One) for Every Student

1. Start your plan of action with your waitlisted school. Let them know they are your #1 choice. Follow through with whatever supplemental materials they will allow. Some colleges do not allow any additional materials. If a college accepts new rec letters, updated resume, and/or a new essay, then submit them! You need every edge possible since the number of students accepted off of waitlists is usually very small. 2. Next, review the colleges where you received acceptances. Where possible, make visits to your top choices. You will see these colleges with a new perspective. Review your notes from previous visits or conversations with the admissions reps. Double check the majors and be sure the back up colleges have the academic programs you are seeking. Are there social, community service, and/or athletic activities that impact your choice? Once you have matched your criteria with your options, rank the backups. 3. Identify the college that you are willing to attend, if you aren’t accepted to your waitlisted school. Make the necessary deposits (admission & housing) and send back notification of your acceptance. 4. If, for some reason, you don’t have any backups, run-don’t walk to your guidance counselor. Talk with your counselor about other college options where the application deadlines have not passed. Colleges post ‘space available’ through NACAC.

Laura O’Brien GatzionisFounderEducational Advisory Services

How to choose?

If possible, take the time to visit the colleges to which you were accepted before the May 1st deadline. Many schools have special programs in the Spring for accepted students. At least try to visit on your own before deciding where to give your deposit. After visiting the schools and getting a feel for the campus cultures, you will probably feel that one of these “back-up” choices is actually a great fit!

Tira HarpazFounderCollegeBound Advice

I was rejected from my top school and waitlisted at my second choice. How do I pick a backup?

Hopefully, you have chosen a list of schools that you would be happy to attend. If you haven’t gotten in to your first or second choice, I would make a list of factors that you view as important-i.e., location, financial costs, programs and/or majors available-and then try and winnow down your choices. In addition, I would send a letter to my second choice school, indicating my continued interest and describing any new developments since you applied–have you won a new award, become involved in a community service initiative or improved your grades? Let the school know about it.

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