So You Didn’t Get Into Your First Choice of College: Now What?

A lot of time, effort, dedication, and hope is put into the college search process, especially your first choice college. With essays, college visits, long research sessions, and applications, sending it all off can be a big moment. And then comes the waiting. Opening that letter can be nerve-wracking for sure.

Stamps next to each other that say "accepted" and "rejected."

So what happens if you don’t make it into your first choice of college?

First off, it’s ok to be frustrated. Maybe you knew it was a reach, maybe you expected to get in—either way, rejection can sting. Allow yourself some time to be bummed, but don’t dwell on it too much. At some point, you just have to move past it.

After all, this was your first choice—“first” implies that you have a second, third, and even fourth choice prepared. This is why you apply to a number of different colleges on your list, not only to increase your options but also to serve as a sort of backup plan if worse comes to worst.

First Choice Does Not Mean Best Choice

If you weren’t accepted into a college, it just means you weren’t meant to go there. Maybe it wasn’t a good academic or social fit. But where one door closes, another opens. Now you have new opportunities and different schools to consider. Look at your second and third choice schools—there’s still a reason they’re so high up on your list, you still would want to attend them, right?

Try not to spend too much time dwelling on “what might have been” but rather psych yourself up for “what could happen now!” Maybe going to the second or third choice on your list will be the best decision you could have made. You can still move forward, and do amazing things, at other universities.


Some students bank their future employment and success merely on the reputation of the school they were accepted into, but the truth of the matter is that what you do in college matters more than where you go. In another article, we discussed which was more important: better grades or reputation in more detail, but the essence is that employers are more likely to look at your GPA and achievements rather than just the name of your school.

You’re Not Alone

Nearly half of all college-bound students don’t enroll at their first-choice college, so don’t worry about being an outlier in that sense. There are a great number of successful people who also didn’t get into their first choice, people like Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Amy Tan, and Dan Harmon—they’re all doing just fine despite not having gone to their “dream school.” Being rejected from your first choice does not mean your life is over or that you’ll never be mega-successful, as these celebs show.

All in All

Disappointing though it may be, life moves on. You’ve still got an exciting college education and experience ahead of you, even if it’s not at the school you dreamed about growing up. That’s ok. You will end up where you need to be.

Want to see your acceptance odds at the reach, match, and safety schools on your college list? Use College Raptor’s free match tool to discover today!

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