What To Do When You Don’t Get Into the College You Want

  1. Panic.
  2. Lie awake a few nights.
  3. Panic some more.
  4. Feel shell shocked.
  5. Get angry. Your anger can be directed at life, the system, your parents, the situation, whatever you can think of. You can do that for a couple of days.
  6. Take a deep breath.
  7. Start scrambling. …

Ricky did a good job and started scrambling after about a week. He began by getting online and looking up any schools that were still taking applications, still fit his criteria, had a reasonable out-of-state tuition cost, and were interesting to him. He looked at a lot of out-of-state schools he hadn’t considered before, went through tons of web sites, read “College Prowler” late into the night, searched, studied, scrambled, searched some more. …

University of Montana

Then, ultimately, he started putting together applications to:

  • Colorado State University
  • University of Montana
  • Arizona State University
  • University of Nevada – Las Vegas
  • University of Nevada – Reno

But quickly University of Montana became a front-runner. … Montana? We were a little surprised. We’d never even heard of it. But it really had all the things he loved:

  • Classic college atmosphere, with the brick buildings, clock tower, main quad, falling leaves. Rolling Stone named it one of the prettiest campuses in the country.
  • Journalism program, with 8 Pulitzer winners. Nice.
  • HUGE sports town. Perfect for a wannabe sports writer! We hear the whole down of Missoula shuts down for Griz football in the fall. Good mascot, good colors, stadium on campus. They’re the top of their division every year, so they must be really exciting football seasons!
  • Small population: Only 15,000 students, which I think would be great for him. Private school numbers at a public school cost! You can get all your classes, and professors are accessible, both good things that I worried about with the UCs.
  • Outdoorsy lifestyle. A lot of the campuses offered this, but Oregon stood out for a woodsy, outdoorsy life, and Montana is often compared to Oregon that way. Tons of hiking, river-rafting, skiing, biking — all in the most beautiful scenery. Since Tahoe is his favorite place on earth, he would probably love a mountainous, woodsy atmosphere. (He’d just have to get used to snow!)

University of Montana in winter


So … who knows? He might be in Montana next year! He was already accepted (and into the journalism program), but we won’t make any final decisions until early May, when the waiting list details are out for Santa Barbara. Plus he hasn’t heard from ASU yet, which is a second place.

But the bottom line — what we learned — is that even when your first instinct is to panic, and feel really uncertain about everything, there are always options. I guess we all have to learn to scramble. … And he did a great job. He acted like an adult, got on the ball, and found a great solution. He’s really excited about everything again.

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5 thoughts on “What To Do When You Don’t Get Into the College You Want

  1. Well, Montana should somehow be in his blood, after all, his dad and 2 uncles were born there. Yes, the family left while Chris was still a baby, but it was a great place. If he does wind up going there, he’ll love it. You and Chris would love visiting there as well.

  2. Good for him! I know the scrambling and panic feeling, it is so frustrating to watch them be so sad when they thought they had their future planned (well, their idea of it anyways). It is great that he did all that research himself and came to his own conclusion – I had to help mine out quite a bit after telling her “no” to Hawaii, after that, her balloon was a little deflated, unfortunately! It sounds like he is level headed and will make a good choice!

  3. So glad to hear the rest of the story! or at least the continuation. In my experience things seem to work out in life. What a great kid.

  4. Thanks, all, for such kind comments! I should also mention that MY college roommate (from my first year) happens to live right next to U of Montana (and has for about a decade) and just loves it there. But she just wrote and said she’d gone out of town for her son’s lacrosse and came back to snow! She said as beautiful as it is there, it’s very COLD. (Our So. Cal boy would have to get used to that!) Interesting to think about such different lifestyles. …

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