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How do I handle college rejections?

Apr 12, 2018

So college admissions decisions are out, and you didn’t get in. How do you deal?

Remember that rejection isn’t specific.

Many students think their rejection can be traced back to a specific part of their application. Maybe that B in freshman year Spanish was why I didn’t get into Yale, they think. If I had only missed one less question on the SAT. . .you can see how deep that rabbit hole runs. Dwelling on the “what if’s” is unproductive and unhealthy! Plus, it’s not accurate: you weren’t specifically rejected — you just weren’t accepted.

Don’t take it personally

You weren’t rejected because there was something “wrong” with your application. A file of papers with your name on it is not a comprehensive representation of who you are. With the admissions rates at top schools dwindling every year (Harvard’s regular decision acceptance rate this year was 2.43%), college admissions is more of a lottery. Similarly, don’t compare yourself to other people. Just because a friend with similar scores, extracurriculars, and accomplishments got in does not mean you were any less of a qualified applicant.

Don’t spiral.

It can be really hard to accept the loss of a future you’ve imagined for yourself. But the only thing that not getting into XYZ college means is that you will not attend XYZ college. It doesn’t mean you won’t ever be happy, or meet amazing people, or become successful in your desired career path. You just won’t be doing it at XYZ college.

If you are self-motivated and self-actualized

You will be able to take your education and your future into creating opportunities for yourself. Ample research suggests that finding a mentor or internship in your chosen field is ultimately more important than the brand name of your college. Elite schools are elite for a reason, but ultimately, how well-educated and successful you become is up to you.

Apply again!

You can always apply for graduate school to the institution. If you truly feel that it does matter, and your heart is dead set on attending as an undergraduate, apply as a transfer or take a gap year and apply again.

Remember to give yourself time to feel the way that you feel. Then, resolve to move on! Rather than seeing this moment as a crushing setback, view it as an opportunity to start fresh and seek out an exciting new path.