College Waitlists and Backup Schools – Help!

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Here is our 3rd guest post by The Unigo Expert Network,a group of top education experts from across the US answering questions submitted by students and parents about college admissions and succeeding after high school.

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 I was rejected from my top choice school and waitlisted at my second choice. What do I do? How do I choose amongst my backup schools? I don’t know anything about them!– Lauren B., Houston, TX
Remember why backup schools seemed like good choices months earlier
Everyone has a dream school, but in reality that school may say no, or at best, maybe. Stay on the waitlist then, sending a letter of continued commitment, but also focus on alternatives. Hopefully you researched diligently and applied only to schools you could imagine attending. Remind yourself now why a school was on your list – explore the course catalog, Facebook with current students, attend admitted student events to take the measure of prospective classmates. College will be whatever you make of it, wherever you attend, and after a few months, you will hardly recall having had another dream!
          Andrea Van Niekerk – Educational Consultant, College Goals
Accept the Waitlist Invite, But Secure Your Spot at Another School!
Waitlist decisions can sometimes be harder on applicants than outright rejections. They provide the disappointment of a rejection but not the closure. If waitlisted, accept the invitation to be placed on the waitlist. Because this will not result in a guaranteed positive outcome, submit a deposit at another institution. However, before submitting a deposit, reflect on your priorities for your best-fit institutions and determine which among your “admit” schools most closely match these priorities. If possible, visit these schools. However, if you can’t visit, take advantage of the opportunity to interact with current students via the phone, web chats,, etc. so you have the opportunity to gain some peer insight before making a final decision.
          Sarah Hernandez – Director of the Office of Diversity Programs in Engineering, Cornell University
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.
          Gail Lewis – Educational Consultant, College Goals
By exploring new options, you may find something even better
First of all, don’t panic. There are plenty of other options out there. In addition, 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!
          Enid Arbelo – Editor-In-Chief, NextStepU
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!
          Barb Fisher – Marketing Director & Foundation Liaison, Rainy River Community College
Get the full story from 31 more experts – including the VP of the College Board, Dean of Admissions from University of Illinois and more – at To send your question to our experts, visit

See also:  
Make the Most of College Campus Visits
Can Facebook Hurt Your College Acceptance Chances? 
Should Rankings Matter in College Selection?

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