You’ve done your research, bought the sweatshirt and envisioned yourself waltzing across the campus dozens of times. And then it arrives: the dreaded rejection letter. Within a matter of seconds, the sickeningly thin envelope or disappointingly short email crushes your dreams in a single paragraph. But while it might feel like the apocalypse right now, being rejected from your top school can be a positive experience. Read on for tips on how to handle college rejection, and to understand why some collegiettes are now thankful they didn’t get into their top choices.
Let Yourself Grieve
There’s no doubt that not getting into your top choice is disappointing. You worked hard, studied tirelessly, and suddenly you feel like you did it all for nothing. While this obviously isn’t true, we’ll get to that later. For now, break out the Ben and Jerry’s, turn on your favorite rom-com, and allow yourself to wallow a little. Manhattan-based Psychoanalyst, April Feldman, says letting the tears flow freely is much healthier and will actually help you get over your disappointment much quicker than if you suppress it. ”I know it sounds corny, but we all have an emotional refrigerator. If you put your feelings into the fridge and don’t deal with them, they will just get more rotten over time and never really go away. Instead, allow yourself to fully experience your emotions and then after a bit, you will be able to move on,” she says. But while you should definitely indulge in a little relaxation, make sure to stay on top of your schoolwork and not completely zone out. Being productive can be a great confidence booster, and according to CollegeBoard.com, colleges reserve the right to view students’ grades and revoke their acceptance until high school graduation!
Remember It’s Not Personal
When we get a rejection letter, our first reaction is to take it personally. But each application is just one of thousands, and there are many factors taken into consideration that have nothing to do with your abilities. Colleges are trying to create a class made up of students with diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, career and athletic interests, and geographic locations. Therefore, students often get rejected from a college based on their city, state, ethnicity, major, extracurriculars, volunteer work, or any other aspect of their application, rather than their GPA. Moreover, it is impossible to truly evaluate a person without knowing the person, especially when many students look practically identical on paper.
Karen Elitzky, a college counselor at La Jolla Country Day School, says “There are brilliant kids at the top of their class who get rejected from schools. No one gets in everywhere,” she says. And remember that just because you were rejected by one school, doesn’t mean you won’t get in to your other choices. “Getting rejected from Princeton and Columbia [my top choice] on the same day was really upsetting. But the next day, I got my acceptance letter from Boston College. I cried when I opened it and looking back, it has been the best school for me,” says Boston College senior and HC Campus Correspondent, Brittany Lewis. You're likely to have applied to a variety of schools and will get into some of them. The waiting game can definitely be grueling, but remind yourself of how hard you worked on your application and remember that every admissions committee is different. One university's decision will not dictate your entire college future!
It's tempting to hype up your top school and put it on a pedestal so high that no other college can compete with it. But take a step back and consider why you wanted to go there in the first place. Did you love the location of the campus? Does the school offer a top program in your chosen career path? Chances are, at least some of the qualities that attracted you to that specific school also exist in the other schools you applied to.
Ajibike Lapite fell in love with Harvard University at the ripe age of nine and was heartbroken when she received her rejection letter. But after just one semester at Princeton, she says she’s thankful she didn’t get into Harvard. “I’m extremely happy and have realized that not getting into my ‘top choice’ was a good thing.” Brittany agrees and says you do not have to rely on one specific school to have a positive college experience. “Regardless of where you go, college is about finding a place to grow, learn, and find (or at least start to find) what you love.”
If you have received acceptance letters to other colleges, create a list outlining all of the things you love about the schools you did get into. Reminding yourself about the other amazing choices out there will help you realize that you won’t only survive, but actually thrive at a different school. Laura Hoxworth, HC Contributing Writer and student at UNC-Chapel Hill, says she was devastated when she didn’t get in to the University of Virginia