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?

Barb Fisher
Recruiter, 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 Yarwood
Director 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 Cushing
Associate Director of College Counseling King 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 Jacobs
Director of College Guidance Jack 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 Ford
Counseling Department Chair Singapore 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.

David Hamilton
Director of College Advising St. 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 Adler
Founder Elinor 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!

Enid Arbelo
Editor in Chief NextStepU

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!

Farron Peatross
Educational Consultant EduCPlanner.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!

Gail Lewis
Educational Consultant College 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.