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?

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College 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.

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY 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.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft 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.

Carita Del Valle
Founder Academic 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.

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless 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!

Sarah Contomichalos
Manager Educational 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.

Benjamin Caldarelli
Partner Princeton 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.

Megan Dorsey
SAT Prep & College Advisor College 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.

Tira Harpaz
Founder CollegeBound 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.

Mitch Clark
Executive Director College 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!