What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

Focusing on Your Second and Third Choice College Applications

For some students, the vision of a dream school is all too real. It may be a specific college that you’ve had your heart set on since childhood, or it could be a more recent discovery of a school that just seems to be the ultimate package with everything you’re looking for in a college.


Whatever the case may be for you, if you have found a dream school, you may be struggling to focus on choices beyond it. It’s important to remember, though, that giving your second and third choice schools as much attention as your first is a smart choice for a number of reasons.


In this post we’ll review why you should apply to more than one college, how to motivate yourself for these additional applications, and how to cope if you’re not accepted to your first choice school.


Why Should I Apply to Schools Beyond My Top Choice?


Here at CollegeVine we encourage our students to compile a well-balanced and carefully curated college list. Ideally, this is a process that happens over an extended period of time and it isn’t something that can easily be rushed. Instead, each school is carefully considered individually before landing on the list. While there may certainly be some schools that you’re more excited about than others, your college list should consist entirely of schools you’d be happy to attend.


In general, we recommend that your college list have about 2-3 safety schools, 4-5 target schools, and 2-3 reach schools on it. To learn more about composing a realistic and positive college list, check out these posts:


Seven Tips for Creating Your College List

Five Mistakes to Avoid When Creating Your College List

10 Considerations For Making Your College List


By carefully creating a college list including many different schools, all of which you know you’d be happy at, you safeguard yourself from becoming overly fixated on any single school.

How Can I Motivate to Apply to Schools Beyond My Top Choice?


If the dream school is a mindset you really can’t shake, it might be difficult to focus on other college applications. If this is the case for you, you should try to find ways to get excited about other schools.


Start by identifying what exactly it is that you’re so excited about when you consider your dream school. Is it in the perfect geographical location with the perfect student body demographic? Does it offer a specialized program that’s particularly interesting to you?


If you can identify what’s so intriguing about the dream school, you’ll know what to look for in other schools, too. Find other schools in the same area with similar demographics, or search for another program similar to the one that hooked you in to the dream school. There are thousands of colleges in the United States, so it’s likely that you’ll be able to find some others that meet all of your criteria.


Also, remember that college applications aren’t like high school course assignments, where you’re only allowed to turn your work in for credit in one class. You can submit the same or very similar application materials to every college on your list, even if they don’t accept the Common Application. Maximize your efficiency and use the materials from your dream school application on other applications, too. Of course, this relies on the prompts being similar or at least having some commonalities, but that isn’t especially uncommon. If your response fits another prompt, it is well within the realm of acceptability to submit it with another application too.


Finally, if you’re really having trouble motivating, you might consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students who have been in your shoes.


What If I Get Rejected From My Top Choice?


Often you may apply to a dream school as an Early Decision or Early Action applicant. In these cases, you will generally find out if you’ve been accepted before you apply elsewhere. Other times, you will apply regular decision and find out your fate alongside the results of your other applications.


Either way, if you do not get accepted into your dream school, you might feel like there’s no use in considering other schools. It can be difficult getting past the feeling of disappointment to find renewed motivation and energy. It’s natural to feel this way and it’s sometimes helpful to allow yourself a short period of grief.


If you really need to take a few days to feel sorry for yourself, it’s okay. Pamper yourself, watch movies, stay in bed, whatever it takes—but at the end of your two days, you need to get back up and set yourself to work.


If you have gotten accepted elsewhere and are not excited, try joining some online communities for newly accepted students and making connections with your future classmates. Reach out to current or former students and ask them about their favorite parts of the school. If possible, visit campus again.


While it might seem like the end of the world right now, rest assured that the world will keep spinning and someday your disappointment will fade into the past. Remember that in the long run, you and your dedication to learning are far more important than the name of the college you attend. Dream school or not, you can still forge a path to success.


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.