Picking a Second Choice School
Brought to you by the American School Counselor Association
Dealing with Rejections and Being Wait-Listed
Who likes being rejected? No one that I know! Yet, at this time of year, many students are offered wait-list status or are outright rejected by their favorite schools. First reaction: Total devastation, end of the world, nobody wants me.
Take for example, the valedictorian of our high school. He was rejected a few years ago by Harvard! What more could she have done? Even though she did extremely well, others did better. Sometimes schools are looking for something else: a racial, ethnic, geographic or socio-economic mix that you don't fit.
It's About Supply and Demand
While we don't like being rejected, we can't all be doctors, lawyers, engineers, or professional athletes -- nor can we all go to Duke, Harvard, Notre Dame or Stanford. In case you haven't yet noticed, life isn't always fair.
Professionals and the schools who educate those professionals can't accept everyone into their profession or into their school. There's a supply and demand factor here. There are only so many openings in any given field and in the classroom. Therefore, the more prestigious professions and the more selective colleges and universities have supply and demand on their side. They have only "x" amount of openings; therefore, they can be very "picky" in choosing from a huge applicant pool.
It's not unusual for Ivy's and other selective schools to have five times more applicants than openings. So being a valedictorian does not guarantee acceptance. Scoring a 1400 on the SAT's does not guarantee acceptance. And, being involved in numerous extra-curricular activities, including leadership positions, guarantees nothing!
What's the Deal?
Exactly what is it that schools are looking for? Some schools base admissions criteria strictly on objective data such as class rank, GPA, and SAT scores. Other schools will look at more subjective things like your letters of recommendation, extra-curricular activities, and alumni relatives.
You can talk directly to admissions reps or have your school counselor call for you if you have questions about admissions criteria. You'll probably be told that compared to the total applicant pool, you "came up short" somewhere along the line.
What should I do if I'm wait listed or rejected?
Let's take a look at the wait list circumstance. Counselors advise students to take some time to think about what they want to do if they don't get accepted by their first choice school. In most cases, you should probably send in a deposit to your "safe" school. This is your first choice among the schools that did accept you.
If you are offered admission later, then you need to make a family decision about whether to forfeit the deposit at the other school and send a deposit to the school that has now offered you admission.
Our experience has been that once students have resigned themselves to the fact that they weren't accepted, they get on with their lives and go about making plans to attend the "other" school. Then, if the wait-listed school offers admission, they say thanks, but no thanks!
With a rejection of admission, things are a bit more final. Once you get over the initial let down, start with Plan B since Plan A didn't work out. There are other good schools out there. Make the best of it, move on, and get a great education -- wherever you go!
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