How to Cope with Rejection from Colleges

rejection stampRejection hurts.  Whether it comes from the crush who didn’t accept your invitation to Homecoming, the coach whose team you didn’t make, or the college of your dreams to which you applied early and weren’t admitted, it’s a huge disappointment.  While you can’t change the admissions office’s decision, you do have control over how you deal with the news.  You could buy a gallon of ice cream and sit around in your pajamas all day watching weepy movies, but, eventually, you need to move on.  Here are some things to keep in mind as you’re processing a college admissions denial.

  • It’s not personal. Of course, a rejection of any kind feels very personal.  You’re probably thinking, “Why doesn’t that college like me?  Why don’t those admissions officers want me on their campus?  I have so much to offer!”  As cliche as it sounds, it’s not you, it’s them.  Really.  At most highly selective colleges, about 90% of applicants are academically qualified, so admissions officers have to consider all the other “stuff” students bring to the table.  In reviewing applications, admissions officers are not looking at any student in a vacuum.  They are trying to build a well-rounded class.  Let’s say you are a star debater who’s won several state and national awards, and you applied to a college with a highly-ranked debate team.  Now let’s imagine there are several other accomplished debaters who applied to the same college, and some of them are from states where the college is trying to recruit more students.  That doesn’t bode well for you.  Unfortunately, unless you’ve done something really unique or outstanding, there are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of other students who have the same or similar talents/achievements.  A college just can’t accept all of them.
  • You deserve better.  If you’ve ever been dumped, you’ve likely had a friend or family member say to you, “If he/she doesn’t appreciate you, then you deserve to be with someone who does.”  The same goes for colleges.  It’s tempting to think of all the ways you could have improved yourself/your application; maybe then you would’ve gotten in.  But if you’d changed yourself or your application (and, heaven forbid, if you’d lied on your application), then you wouldn’t have been accepted for who you really are.  Most students want to find a place where they can be themselves.  And maybe the school that rejected you just isn’t it.  Which brings me to my next point…
  • There are a lot of other great colleges, and at least one of them may actually be a better fit.  I applied to six colleges and got into five.  I’ll  admit that, fourteen years later, I’m still somewhat bitter about the one that rejected me.  But, in the end, I truly believe I ended up at a school that was a better fit.  When it comes to colleges, there is no such thing as one perfect match.  Hopefully, if you’ve done your research, there are other schools on your list where you’d be just as happy.  Who knows, you may discover that being rejected from the college where you applied early was actually a blessing in disguise, because you’ll end up at a school that better suits you.
  • Make your other applications as strong as possible.  Going back to my earlier point, you shouldn’t falsify information or inflate yourself for the sake of improving your chances of being admitted to college.  However, if you haven’t already submitted your other applications, you can and should make them as outstanding as they can be.  Go through your applications and make sure there aren’t any activities or accomplishments you forgot to include.  Read your essays one more time and ask yourself if you’re truly satisfied with them.  Consider whether there’s anything you should include in the additional information section.  Finally, proofread your applications one last time before submitting them.  It doesn’t hurt to have someone else proofread them, too.

In conclusion, getting rejected from a college isn’t the end of the world.  That was supposed to happen on December 21.  And since we’re all still here, you might as well make the most of your winter break.  So, go have some fun!  (After you’ve finished the rest of your applications, that is.)

Published by Mark Montgomery

Mark is a leading educational consultant. His experience as a professor, college administrator, and youth mentor help him guide students from around the country and around the world.

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  1. This is such an important blog post. After all, rejection is part of life and learning to deal with it is a major life skill.

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