What To Do When Your Top Choice College Is Out of Reach

A wise man once said 'you can't always get what you want.' This is as true of college as it is of everything else. Some high school seniors simply don't have the credentials to gain admittance to their dream school. But instead of pouting or moping, these students can take action to get back on a desirable path.

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By Sarah Wright

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Come up with a transfer plan.

Getting rejected once doesn't mean you can never get in. In fact, your chances may be a lot stronger after putting in a solid performance for a year or two at a different college or university. If your heart is set on going to your dream school no matter what, think about putting a plan together to transfer. Make sure you're aware of the particulars of the procedure, including what classes are likely to be accepted as transfer credits and what you should do to prepare yourself for your intended major so you can graduate in four years.

Open your mind to other, less competitive schools.

It might not seem like it now, but your dream school might have turned out to be anything but if you'd actually gone there. If a school looks great on paper and has a fantastic reputation, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's the right place for you. There are a lot of good schools out there, some of which are highly likely to accept you and maybe even offer you some generous financial aid.

Remember that your college education can be as good as you make it.

Another thing about less competitive schools is that, though they might not have the same pedigree as ultra-prestigious colleges and universities, they'll still offer you a lot of the same educational opportunities. You'll be learning the same physics, English or economics no matter where you go to school. When you don't go to a big-name university, how impressive a student you are is up to you. You can work hard, make a good impression on your professors and excel well beyond mediocre students at even the best colleges.

Don't be too hard on yourself.

It's discouraging to not get in to your dream school, particularly if you've been busting your butt for years for the express purpose of being accepted there. But keep in mind that highly competitive schools attract an astounding number of applicants, many of whom have connections and other factors that give them an automatic leg up in the admissions process. Not getting accepted to your dream school does NOT mean that you're a bad student or stupid person.

As a personal example, a high school friend got a perfect score on his SAT, was in the top 1% of his graduating class and otherwise had all the extracurricular credentials and things that make one a model student, and even he didn't get into the likes of Harvard and Yale. But he did end up at a very good school that was a great fit for him.

Take the breakup approach.

Got rejected? Why not make yourself feel better by focusing on everything that's wrong with your former dream school. Use the Internet for ideas if you can't come up with you own; there are vociferous complaints about absolutely everything to be found there. Just as focusing on everything that's wrong with an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend can help you move into 'over it' territory, realizing that your dream school is far from perfect will help you see that there are other educational fish in the sea.

If your dream school is one of these overrated colleges, maybe you should set your sights on one of the many fantastic and underrated institutions of higher education in the U.S.

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