Making the Most of Your Second Choice

By Sue Shellenbarger

Even if you don't get into your first-choice school, you'll probably discover that there's a lot to like about the college you do end up attending. Two UC-Santa Cruz undergrads share their stories:

Getting rejected by your top-choice schools isn't easy. We asked college students what they learned from the experience. Here's what they said:

"If they don’t want you, you don’t want them. Getting rejected from schools is not fun. Most everyone experiences it and no one likes it. But not getting into the school you wanted to go to is not the end of the world. Since there is nothing else you can do about it (short of transferring), just think of it in terms of romance: you wouldn't want to be stuck in a relationship where the attraction is one-sided, and you wouldn't want to go to a school that doesn't want you there in the first place."

- Rachel, Connecticut College



"It can be hard to find someone who says UMBC was their first-choice school. I admit it wasn’t mine. Having been rejected by other schools, it was the next best thing. In reality I guess it was THE best thing. I have had opportunities to do research alongside some of the top professors in my field and I’ve been able to have an on-campus job and play rugby, things that I may have never been able to do at a bigger school."

- Bridget, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

"My heart was completely set on NYU all throughout high school. I had this whole Felicity fantasy thing in my head. I ended up attending Boston University, my second-choice school. I met my roommate who just happens to be my soulmate at BU, and I’ve done some really awesome things as a student there. Being rejected forced me to adapt to a situation that I didn’t plan for and that made me appreciate the good times that I had at BU even more."

- Donna, Boston University

 Marilyn C. Morrison of Morrison Educational Consulting believes that there is life after rejection. Here, she debunks the myth that you'll be more successful in life if you go to a famous college.




There are over 3,000 institutions of higher learning in the United States, and some of the best educational and collegiate experiences are available at schools that fly under the radar of public fame. You’ve heard of Harvard, Princeton, and UCLA, but what about Lawrence, Whitman, or Goucher? Top liberal arts colleges such as these offer students small classes, close interaction with professors, and research opportunities that are often unavailable to undergraduates at large universities. Research conducted by Princeton University economist Alan B. Krueger and Stacy Berg Dale of the Mellon Foundation in 1999 concluded that future financial success correlates with the character traits and individual qualities that students bring to college, not with the selectivity of the college they attended.