I Didn’t Get in my Dream College. Now What?

Maybe it’s because we are an east coast family or because we live 65 miles from the number one public University in the country, but college selection in Virginia is a big deal! We have so many quality State universities and many prestigious private schools and also, the coveted small legacy schools.  Just last year, very small Sweet Briar College announced its closing.  The alumnae (being all women) were having nothing of that.  It was truly something to see those women rally all across the country, save the school financially and emotionally, and today have more applicants than needed to survive.  So, in Virginia, where you go to college is a big deal. 


It is a pedigree, so to speak. 


Yet, it is a challenge to even get in.  UVA (University of Virginia) can fill its entire freshman class from 4.0 students from Northern Virginia alone and it really covets top students from private prep schools from in and out of state.  Virginia Tech, our huge state university with over 20,000 undergrads, only takes the top high school students that have taken the hardest classes (advanced placement.)  That leaves so much room for disappointment and feelings of failure for our high school seniors.  Parents even get their own egos stroked when their kids get accepted to those top schools.

But, life is long.  And where you go to college is not the deciding factor for happiness and success in life.  Just read my daughter’s blog of last week, entitled “I took the SAT’s.  Now what?” at www.nowwhatcarolinaduncan.com, to get her take on not going to her dream college. 

Sometimes it’s not in the cards. 

As an aspiring actress, she only wanted to go to NYU.  Now, of course, NYU has one of the most prestigious theatre departments.  Yet, it is also mega expensive and very, very hard to get into.  In addition, my oldest daughter had done a study abroad program sponsored by NYU and she did her classes with NYU students.  She observed these students to be die-hard, get an A no matter what, students. Not a bad attribute per se, but just not what she nor I envisioned for Caroline.  It just wasn’t a good fit. 

So, on to plan B. 

Caroline and her dad made a trip to New York City and surrounding areas to visit other colleges more suited to her SAT scores and her as a person.  They found Adelphi University and she was set.  Loved it.  Had a great college and theatre experience there.


Another child, the daughter of one my best friends, visited schools in Virginia and decided Christopher Newport University was her dream school.  She did everything she could in applying and even made several campus visits.  Still, she could not get accepted.  Her only option was to go to Old Dominion University.  So, she did. 


And she thrived. And she loves it.  And she’s going to graduate!! Maybe her dream school wasn’t her dream school, after all.


My suggestion to parents of high school juniors and seniors is to consult a good reference, such as The Best 380 Colleges by the Princeton Review. Read about the colleges that your children “think” they want to go to.  See if your student has the grades and scores to actually get in the college of their choice.  See if you can realistically afford the school.  If the answer is no, start looking around.  It might actually work out better for the child to go to a school for which they are more academically and emotionally suited. 


There is no such thing as a dream college! 


There are hundreds of colleges.  Go to the one that gives you the possibility of success.  And parents, always be proud and supportive of the school that your child attends.  The faculty of those schools is proud of the job they do.  You want your child to be proud of the education they have worked hard to achieve.  Yes, some colleges open more doors than others.  But to students, I say, get the most from where you are.  You never know where YOU will take YOU.


“It is YOU that walks through that door of possibility!”