My daughter wasn't accepted anywhere!

Question: My daughter has applied to six different colleges and she has received five rejection letters. She scored very low on her SAT scores, and this maybe the reason why she has not gotten a letter of admission. My daughter is a bright student with good grades. What should we do next? It's so disappointing, and costly.

I'm sorry to hear about your daughter's disappointing college results. This can be a very trying time for teenagers and their parents, but please take comfort in the fact that your daughter will still have options. The pain and frustration she's feeling right now won't last forever.

Many colleges will welcome a bright student with good grades, despite low test scores, so it sounds like your daughter didn't get good counseling (sadly, very common these days) or perhaps she ignored the advice she did get. Some guidance counselors underestimate the role that SAT scores can play. At the more selective colleges, applicants often have similar course choices and grades, so test results may end up serving as a “tiebreaker." Moreover, depending on what you mean by “very low," it could be that your daughter's test scores made admission committees worry that she might not be able to handle a demanding college workload.

In any case, if your daughter was admitted to one of her six colleges, then it does sound as if she has an option. This may not be her first-choice school, but since she did apply, it seems as if she should be willing to enroll. There are many posts on the College Confidential discussion forum from students who were forced to attend their “Safety School" but then who went on to thrive there.

It's not clear to me, however, if she was actually admitted anywhere … or expects that she might yet be. You did say that she received five rejection letters out of six applications but has not gotten a letter of admission. So perhaps she is still waiting and could get good news soon.

If not, here are some next steps to consider:

1. You and your daughter should check out this very valuable list:

It's the National Association for College Admission Counseling's 2013 “Space Availability Survey. The colleges on this roster are still accepting applications, even if their deadlines have long passed. Be sure to read the headings at the top of the page carefully so that you don't confuse colleges that have room for freshmen with those that are only accepting transfers. If you need financial aid, be sure to check that column too in order to confirm that aid, as well as space, is also offered.

As you go through the list, you might want to cross-reference it with this one:'s FairTest's list of Test-optional colleges. For instance, you'll find Juniata College in Pennsylvanaia—one of the Colleges that Change Lives—on BOTH lists. I urge you to check out this school right away.

2. Many of the less-selective colleges or “open admission colleges" (including two-year community colleges) have very late deadlines or no deadlines at all, so your daughter still has time to apply. Even if she's not happy about taking this route, if she enrolls and does well she can transfer to a more selective school after a year or two … maybe even to one of those places that said “no" already. (Although colleges often ask for SAT scores from prospective transfers, they pay far more attention to the college grades than to the high school SAT's.)

3. Your daughter might want to consider a gap year. Her time off can include working on improving her test scores and/or reapplying to different colleges, perhaps emphasizing those on the FairTest list. (If you want information on private counseling to help guide you through a new college search, let me know.) Even students who have been admitted to their top-choice colleges often find that a gap year can be a good way to take a break from academics, to explore varied interests, to travel or to earn money before returning to the classroom.

Again, while I'm sure that this is a difficult time for your family, you may find that it ends up in a meant-to-be kind of way. Your daughter could land at a college she loves, even if it wasn't one where she initially applied.