What to Do When You Don't Get Accepted To Your Top-Choice School

Varsity Tutors Contributing Writer

Mar   2013



The college admission process is a long journey, often beginning sophomore year of high school or earlier. You start with a rigorous search, evaluating your myriad options until you finally whittle down to a target list of schools with your “dream school” at the top. In a perfect world, a large envelope will arrive signaling you’ve been accepted. But what if you don’t get into your top choice? What next?

Here is a helpful strategy to follow if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being rejected from your top-choice school:

Accept the reality of the situation

Yes, it's easy to say "accept it and move on." Yet, it's an important lesson everyone eventually learns in life: sometimes, things don't work out the way we hoped or planned. But there is a way to work through the disappointment. The first step in doing this is to simply accept the reality of the situation. You may have bought a couple of t-shirts and already picked out the dorm you’d want to live in, but as circumstances would have it, those plans have changed. Pause, take a deep breath, and understand that it is okay to attend a different school. Life will go on and you will still be able to have that college experience you’ve dreamed of at another institution. If you spend the rest of your time comparing schools to that dream one, they are not going to be presented in the best light; you won’t be happy with them because you won’t be allowing yourself to be. Give yourself the opportunity to be happy with a different school.

Be proud of your accomplishments

One college may have turned you down, but don’t let that disappointment stand in the way of viewing your triumphs! Other schools are actively inviting you in. Take a moment to realize how much your hard work has paid off and how there are still numerous opportunities laid out in front of you. Plus, you are the decision-maker this time; no need to wait around for an admission board to tell you where you will be going because this time around, the choice is up to you. Once you are able to comprehend what you have achieved, you’ll have a clearer mindset to view these options as positive pathways to your future.

Research, research, research

It's common for students to lose the drive to scrupulously research those back-up schools initially when they are so set on their dream school. The good news is that you can still do that now, and it’s more critical than ever. Now that you have a more open mind on the subject, you can really begin examining the possibilities available at these schools and take advantage of any opportunities they offer for you to get to know them better. Schedule a campus visit and take a guided tour if you haven’t already, participate in an overnight program where you stay with a current student, attend an information session, or even schedule a private informational interview with an admission counselor. Do whatever you need to do to get well-acquainted with these universities, and you’re bound to discover one that fits your academic, cultural, and social needs adequately.

It may be a bummer not getting into your dream school, but you can easily muster up the mature attitude to move forward and still get that dream experience elsewhere. And if after a year you still can’t shake the idea of your top choice, you can always consider transferring. Plenty of college options exist out there for a reason; there are several different fits for you as a prospective college student and you just need to give yourself the chance to open up to them. Your college experience is just that—your experience. It depends on you and what you make of it. So why not make the most of it?

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About Cathryn Sloane

Cathryn Sloane

Cathryn Sloane is a contributing writer from Varsity Tutors, a premier private academic tutoring and test prep provider designed to help students at all levels of education achieve academic excellence. Varsity Tutors delivers in-home, personalized, one-on-one instruction in any subject, from STEM to the humanities, and customized preparation for all standardized exams, including ISEE, SSAT, SAT, and ACT and graduate exams such as the GRE, LSAT, MCAT, and GMAT.  Students from elementary to graduate school are expertly matched with an exceptional tutor who is best able to address their unique needs and goals. To ensure satisfaction and safety, only the highest caliber tutors are selected to join Varsity Tutors following a rigorous screening process. Varsity Tutors currently serves 19 cities nationwide and offers a variety of tutoring packages. Students and their families interested in learning more about Varsity Tutors should visit www.varsitytutors.com.